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Middle school principal: ban your kids from social networking sites

Discussion in 'Sports and News' started by Bob Cook, Apr 30, 2010.

  1. Bob Cook

    Bob Cook Active Member

    This normally would go against every free speech bone in my body, but this middle-school principal in New Jersey has a point in telling parents to get their kids off of social networking sites. I got a notice about a cyberbullying problem recently at my daughter's school -- her ELEMENTARY school. I think the impetus for this note is not only how verbal and psychological abuse can spread like wildfire (or a Gulf oil slick) on social networking sites, but also that the gap between kids' and parents' knowledge of social networking, how it works, and its effects is enormous. Actually, part of the problem is that NO ONE knows how it can affect kids, and kids certainly aren't as wise to the 24-hour rule or other niceties.

    Here is a link to the note, and I posted excerpts below.


    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.


    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.
  2. Armchair_QB

    Armchair_QB Well-Known Member

    Middle school kids shouldn't have free speech rights.
  3. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    It never takes long before someone shows a complete misunderstanding of the entire concept of the right to free speech. The principal is not insisting on a government ban, which is the only way the "free speech" argument would have anything to do with it. He is telling parents to wake the fuck up. I don't know how you could have a problem with that.
  4. Lugnuts

    Lugnuts Well-Known Member

    I saw the principal on GMA yesterday morning and was surprised this didn't become a major news story during the day.

    I had no idea the Facebook shit had gotten this bad.

    The principal struck me as levelheaded, caring and concerned... like he wouldn't be sounding the alarm bells without good cause.
  5. Armchair_QB

    Armchair_QB Well-Known Member

  6. Well ... if it's a public school, the principal is acting as an agent of the government, and therefore a state actor ...

    But that being said, kids have pretty much zero free speech rights at school (look up the Bong Hits 4 Jesus case), just like prisoners or armed forces members don't.

    But I think that the OP just meant free speech as a life principle, not necessarily that the principal was actually violating the Constitution with a mere suggestion.

    Count me as one of the people who agrees with the principal. I don't know how many of you watch "Modern Family," but it's kind of a running joke on that show that the 16-year-old is constantly texting, facebooking, and doing something social or another with some device. As my own son gets old enough to notice, I plan on spending less and less time in front of a screen around him, just to set an example. I got rid of my Facebook page, and I've urged my wife to get rid of hers, though she's resistant to pull the trigger.

    I particularly like the part about how their interactions with each other are far more dangerous than sexual predators lurking, which is an overblown but dramatic fear. Besides sexting and bullying and other dangers, I think kids just plain get addicted to these things. I am in school with a lot of 22-25-year-olds, and some of them can't hold a conversation with me in the five minutes before class without constantly checking a text or sending out a text or refreshing Facebook five times. Some are on social networking sites the entire class period every day. Not all, but some.
  7. deskslave

    deskslave Active Member

    The only way the "agent of the government" angle would come into play would be if he somehow banned students from having Facebook. He's not doing that. (Though at a private school, I'm pretty sure he could anyway.)

    Besides which, "free speech" doesn't translate into the right to have a Facebook account. You're entitled to say whatever you want; you're not entitled to access to any particular forum in which to do so. If you were, you'd be able to demand that a newspaper run any letter to the editor you submitted.

    In the end, though, it's the same as any age group: Facebook has its advantages and drawbacks. But if your kid's 11, 12, 13, you need to be on there as well, you need to be your kid's Facebook friend and you need to set the kid's privacy settings yourself. And you get the password. If the kid changes the password, no more Facebook.
  8. I agree with you for the most part, though I think that theoretically he could be coercive enough with the "suggestion" that it would trigger a 1A concern. That's not the case here.

    As far as the analogy, the newspaper isn't a state actor, so that's not the same. And a state actor wouldn't get to order you to use or not use a certain medium to convey your message, depending on the forum, of course. For example, you have a right to use pickets or handbills if you're protesting on a sidewalk or street (subject to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions).

    But again, these are students in a school, so their rights are pretty much nil anyway and this is a purely academic sidetrack. Also, I wonder if private schools would be bound at all to the 1A (if schools these days can be said to bound at all by it) iif they are taking school voucher money?
  9. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    Every kid who uses the computer should be monitored by their parents. No kid should be allowed to have a computer in their own room until they're teenagers and even then it should be monitored pretty closely. My kids are still too young, but I have a friend who gets a record of every single word his kids type into the laptop, that includes facebook, instant messaging, and email. His daughter (12) was getting emails from her boyfriend that was ridiculously sexual for a kid that age. The worst thing his son (age 10) has done on the computer is doing a google image search for "boobs"

    I don't think it's an issue of trusting your kids. I think it's an issue of not trusting the other kids and sexual predators who are out there.
  10. novelist_wannabe

    novelist_wannabe Well-Known Member

    This. What I took from the principal's message was parents should be paying attention. Too often, they don't.
  11. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    The same friend monitors his daughter's FB friends list weekly. If she can't tell him where she knows each person from, they're gone.
  12. The sexual predators thing is overblown. But I agree with everything else.

    Do his kids know that he's monitoring them?

    I like that the principal in the story noted that 90 percent of homework can be done without the Internet. Not to be a fuddy-duddy, but it drives me batty today when kids claim that they can't get their homework done unless they are listening to an iPod, instant messaging, facebooking, watching You Tube videos, and downloading movies simultaneously. (says the guy who has his fantasy baseball stat tracker up during class ...)
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