Facebook dilemmas

Recently we faced a dilemma as school leaders about students using Facebook and in posting this I’m seeking feedback from a wider audience.

To explain we were alerted to a situation about a young student who had a Facebook page. The police had been involved and explained to us about the age young people are allowed to have Facebook pages – shock – I didn’t know. I have a Facebook page and have entered my correct age and probably didn’t have to answer other questions. Anyway we checked the Facebook safety page and found the following: 

Facebook Safety

Children under 13 years old are not permitted access to Facebook. In addition, parents of children 13 years and older should consider whether their child should be supervised during the child’s use of the Facebook site.

A quick search found lots of our senior students 10 – 12 year olds with Facebook pages. Some students declaring they were older [22 years old – one said], others with photos that could be seen as suggestive in nature and others with seemingly innocent one liners declaring their affection for another student.

What to do?

Facebook is a blocked site on the school system so all of this is going on offsite. Where does our responsibility lie here? We have published in the school newsletter a column on cyber safety notifying parents about what we found. We have a parent information session booked with an “expert” in 2010.

We have briefed staff on the issue – quite a few of whom expressed bewilderment on the issue not knowing enough about this web 2.0 stuff like Facebook to structure informed conversations with students on this.

Another search showed more students using myspace. We counsel students on the issues surrounding cybersafety but I’m feeling we are underdone on this and need lots of support to get this right.

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6 Responses to Facebook dilemmas

  1. John says:

    I really like your blog and i respect your work. I’ll be a frequent visitor.

  2. mwalker says:

    I looked at the doug johnson blog and he is consistent with Dave – it’s there so get on with it.
    I guess I’m being prudent at the moment and releasing things bit by bit [e.g. youtube at the moment] and testing the water.
    Thanks for the link

  3. mwalker says:

    Teaching about cyberbullying is a must and not a one off lesson either. Supporting parents by educating them about the importance of monitoring is a second.

    Given Facebook is not permitted to students under 13 yo I might struggle to gain acceptance in a primary school – certainly in a secondary school I would consider it.

    I have unblocked youtube at the moment and this has been used reasonably responsibily so in some ways I am following your line of thought.
    Thanks for the comment

  4. Dave Sherman says:

    Maybe the first thing to so is UNBLOCK Facebook in school. By blocking it, you are sending the message that this is some taboo which automatically draws kids to it outside of school.

    Next, teach the appropriate use of all internet sites, not just Facebook. Be clear what cyberbullying is, and don’t freak out if a child accidentally finds an inappropriate site. This is bound to happen, either in school or at home. The way we react to this event sends a message to kids. Make a big deal, and it will become a big deal. Treat it as a simple mistake (assuming it is, at least the first time), and the kids will be calmer.

    Then, continue to educate parents about the importance of monitoring their children’s use of the internet. You are monitoring them every second of the school day, and the parents should be doing the same. For example, computers should not be in the kids’ bedrooms.

    You may be doing all of this already. If so, keep it up. Remember, you only have control of the kids when they are in school. Take advantage of all the teachable moments you can find.

Interested in your thoughts