Benjamin Franklin Middle School Chief Says Students Should Be Cut Off From Facebook, Text Messaging

Anthony Orsini, the principal at Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Ridgewood, NJ, sent out an e-mail Wednesday morning asking parents to help him get all of his students off social networks and keep careful track of their text messages. (Read Story)



Below is a copy of Orsini's entire unedited e-mail:

Dear BF Community,

In 2002 when I arrived in Ridgewood Facebook did not exist, Youtube did not exist, and MySpace was barely in existence. Formspring (one of the newest internet scourges, a site meant simply to post cruel things about people anonymously) wasn't even in someone's mind.

In 2010 social networking sites have now become commonplace, and technology use by students is beyond prevalent.

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.

5 of the last 8 parents who we have informed that their child was posting inappropriate things on Facebook said their child did not have an account. Every single one of the students had an account.

3 Students yesterday told a guidance counselor that their parents told them to close their accounts when the parents learned they had an account. All three students told their parents it was closed. All three students still had an account after telling their parents it was closed.

Most students are part of more than one social networking site.

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!

Over 90% of all homework does not require the internet, or even a computer. Do not allow them to have a computer in their room, there is no need.

Know that they can text others even if their phone doesn't have texting capability, either through the computer or through their Ipod touch.

Have a central "docking station" preferably in your bedroom, where all electronics in the home get charged each night, especially anything with a cell or wifi capability (Remember when you were in high school and you would sneak the phone into your bedroom at midnight to talk to you girlfriend or boyfriend all night - now imagine what they can do with the technology in their rooms).

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.

We as a school can offer guidance and try to build up any student who has been injured by the social networking scourge, but please insist the authorities get involved.

For online gaming, do not allow them to have the interactive communication devices. If they want to play Call of Duty online with someone from Seattle, fine, they don't need to talk to the person.

The threat to your son or daughter from online adult predators is insignificant compared to the damage that children at this age constantly and repeatedly do to one another through social networking sites or through text and picture messaging.

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.

I will be more than happy to take the blame off you as a parent if it is too difficult to have the students close their accounts, but it is time they all get closed and the texts always get checked.

I want to be clear, this email is not anti-technology, and we will continue to teach responsible technology practices to students. They are simply not psychologically ready for the damage that one mean person online can cause, and I don't want any of our students to go through the unnecessary pain that too many of them have already experienced.

Some people advocate that the parents and the school should teach responsible social networking to students because these sites are part of the world in which we live.

I disagree, it is not worth the risk to your child to allow them the independence at this age to manage these sites on their own, not because they are not good kids or responsible, but because you cannot control the poor actions of anonymous others.

Learn as a family about cybersafety together at wiredsafety.org for your own knowledge. It is a great site. But then do everything I asked in this email - because there really is no reason a child needs to have one of these accounts.

Please take action in your on home today.

Sincerely,
Anthony Orsini
Principal, BFMS

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What do you think? Is this a big deal over nothing?

Tags: ban, facebook

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Exactly. of course, in a perfect world, none of our students would ever be in harm's way, but, unfortunately, a student is likely to find him/herself in a difficult situation at some point (on the web or in life). In order to prepare for that regrettable (yet inveitable) situation, we need to train our students to make the right decisions to avoid escalation and get themselves out of trouble.

Also, i think drinking and drugs are a bad metaphor for social media. As many above have said, if used correctly and by appropriate age groups, these networks can be very useful and even educational. Teaching students how to use social networks is like teaching them how to drive. YES, it can be very dangerous, but it's a necessary skill (for better or worse) so let's teach them how to do it right.
I can understand the worry, frustration, and even the desire to close off these social networks. However, this principal is doing his students a great injustice. The only way students can and will learn is if we expose them to the correct way of doing things. Acting like abstinence was the only way did nothing to slow teen pregnancies. Similarly acting as if social networking doesn't exist and trying to ban them will only add fuel to the flame. Then, students won't tell their parents if they are being harassed because they were not supposed to have a facebook in the first place. There are many social networking sites that can add a lot to any educational classroom. If educators and parents work together we can make social networking a positive for education and for our students.
As a parent of two teenage boys, I agree that there is a danger in allowing complete, unmonitored access to any social network. That said, I also know for a fact that complete censorship of your child’s exposure to the real world is detrimental for their development in modern times.

True, we grew up without facebook, or twitter. Back then, we called it pen pals. This kind of experiences, did not only allow us to explore a world beyond our limits, but also provided a way to create connections with strangers that are in otherwise different environments but similar life stage.

As any issue, this is a double edged-sword. The bottom line is parent supervision and involvement. My kids are involved in several networks. They get different benefits from each one, and sometimes no benefit at all. However, as an active parent I have conversations with my kids about limits, what's acceptable and what is not. It is called educating your child, and giving them values. I have control over their exposure, and monitor their activities. When there is a problem, I address them. In my opinion, it is fiction that a parent can't control their kid’s exposure. The problem is that it requires work and attention, and the knowledge on how to handle some situations.

I agree with Mr. Orsini in that the answer is to teach parents and students responsible technology practices. However, eliminating access to this technology to prevent the problem of “psychological damage” is like using a “pick-ax for brain surgery”.
Social Media in Education: The Power of Facebook
By Heather Wolpert-Gawron, Edutopia

As a teacher and a new mom, it didn’t take long for me to find Facebook as a supplement for my stunted social life. And as any FB user knows, once you join, you become inundated with photos of new babies, comments about friends’ recent bodily functions, quiz results, and mysterious requests for farm equipment or mafia weapons.

But beyond the posts I saw that made me laugh, cry, and wince, I soon learned that Facebook was also a place of professional learning and development.

I began sharing with other teachers and educators what were working, what news I’d read, what blog post I’d written, my indignations, and my victories. Soon my small pool of professional friends bled into my small pool of personal ones. And so I also discovered that Facebook was more than just a means to learn about friends professionally and colleagues personally: It became a way to publicize the issues each of us felt deserved advocacy.

Potent Proof
A couple recent models of this education advocacy on Facebook that come to mind may be different in intent, but they both have something in common: the use of 21st century tools to move mountains.

Example One: Buffelgrass shall perish
To say the Buffelgrass Shall Perish fan page is the mastermind of Tucson teacher, Brian Kievit would be inaccurate according to the enthusiastic middle school science teacher. It was, he admits with a smile via Skype, “one-hundred percent student created.” In true problem-based learning format, the science teacher asked a group of eighth graders at his school to pick a problem in their local community and solve it. (Read More)

NOTE: Last week, I invited Mr. Orsini to join this discussion. Are you surprised that he is not participating in this open, informative forum?

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