Anthony Orsini, who is Principal of the Benjamin Franklin Middle School in New Jersey is taking a stand against social networking. He's against it. Really against it. He has written to all parents as follows, and I'm copying the email as I got it from Allface.
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.
It's really difficult to know just where to start with this isn't it? Let's leave aside the dreadful grammar and composition, because they're just cheap shots. His opinion seems to be that social networking can cause students problems because of bullying. I presume therefore that before we had the internet, and before we had social media, we had no bullying? Nonsensical of course. The problem that a school has is not cyberbullying, it's bullying, and it's the responsibility of a school to bring it under control, and the only way that can be done is by education, and discussion with children, not by banning things.
Surely a school school encourage children to utilise resources sensibly? Indeed, one only needs to look at their website and read the banner at the top of the home page: 'Maximizing the unique potential of every learner'. I suppose that excludes school children who want to learn via the net however. What Mr Orsini would however appear to be encouraging is a situation of division and distrust; encouraging parents to check their children's text messages, locking away phones every night and telling them that they're not allowed onto social media sites. Clearly this man has no children, and no experience of children - the first thing they're going to be doing if they're told that they can't do something is go out and do it! It also pre-supposes that parents know how to check access to their computers and undertake survelliance of their childrens machines in the first place - which I doubt.
This man makes remarkable claims - 90% of all homework does not require the internet, or even a computer. If that IS the case in his educational institution I'd be astonished, and I'd be withdrawing my child immediately, since clearly neither the senior staff, the teachers or support staff have any idea about how to teach children properly. After all, this is the age where students can access everything from online graduate programs to games teaching child literacy.
I'm fascinated by his lack of interest in his students - the responsibility is that of the parents. Failing that, it's the responsibility of the police. Never, it would seem, the responsibility of the school to teach, enlighten and educate children on the effective use of the internet, their responsibilities towards their school mates or the development of any kind of responsibility.
I could go on, but I think my point is made. Mr Orsini - you are shortsighted and foolish, but more than that - you are a danger to the children in your care. You should rethink your approach, develop a backbone and start doing what a school should do - teach and educate children, and show them how to stay safe on the internet.