A bunch of folks have been submitting this story of a New Jersey middle school principal sending an email to all parents telling them to ban Facebook for their kids
and to spy on all of their text messaging habits. Because, apparently, at Benjamin Franklin Middle School, "trust" is not something they want to teach. We see this sort of overreaction to new things all of the time. In the past, school administrators have needlessly freaked out about such things as comic books, dungeons and dragons, walkmen and mp3 players. If the principal, Anthony Orsini, had just sent out a note saying "talk to your kids and pay attention to what they're doing online," it would have been fine. But, instead, he went all out:
It is time for every single member of the BF Community to take a stand! There is absolutely no reason for any middle school student to be a part of a social networking site!
Let me repeat that - there is absolutely, positively no reason for any middle school student to be a part of a social networking site! None....
Actually, there are plenty of reasons why a middle school kid might be a part of a social networking site: it's called communicating with their peers. That doesn't mean parents should let their kids use them entirely freely, but a blanket ban is clear overkill by someone who apparently doesn't understand how these things work.
Please do the following: sit down with your child (and they are just children still) and tell them that they are not allowed to be a member of any social networking site. Today!
Let them know that you will at some point every week be checking their text messages online! You have the ability to do this through your cell phone provider.
Let them know that you will be installing Parental Control Software so you can tell every place they have visited online, and everything they have instant messaged or written to a friend. Don't install it behind their back, but install it!
He goes on to then urge parents to contact the police any time their child gets a message they don't like:
If your son or daughter is attacked through one of these sites or through texting - immediately go to the police! Insist that they investigate every situation. Also, contact the site and report the attack to the site - they have an obligation to suspend accounts or they are liable for what is written.
That last line, saying that the sites are liable is simply not correct, but why let facts get in the way of a good rant.
Orsini then goes on to explain that he's absolutely positive that social networks will be found in studies to be damaging to kids:
It is not hyperbole for me to write that the pain caused by social networking sites is beyond significant - it is psychologically detrimental and we will find out it will have significant long term effects, as well as all the horrible social effects it already creates.
Of course, similar things have been written about every "new" thing that the older generation in society doesn't get -- including the waltz
("we feel it a duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion"), movies, videos games... and chess
("chess is a mere amusement of a very inferior character, which robs the mind of valuable time that might be devoted to nobler acquirements, while it affords no benefit whatever to the body"). I assume, we can add Orsini's quote to the other quotes about those other things soon.
Basically, it looks like Orsini has fallen prey to yet another moral panic. He claims that it doesn't make sense to teach "responsible" computing, because middle school kids can't handle it. It appears that many kids in his school disagree, and are quoted in the article saying so. Clearly, many kids will abuse social networks and the will bully others. But doing a blanket ban certainly won't work, and is just someone overreacting because he was unable to handle some kids acting poorly. It's an attempt to prevent kids from doing stuff, just so that the administrators might get a little "security" from kids being kids.
Perhaps the principal of the Benjamin Franklin Middle School, should pay attention to Ben Franklin's words:
They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.