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Principal Urges Students to Log Off Facebook

By paulabernstein |

A New Jersey middle school principal is proposing a ban on social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter for middle school students.

Anthony Orsini of Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Ridgewood, N.J. sent a letter to parents urging them to keep their children off of Facebook and other social networking sites.

“It is time for every single member of the school community to take a stand. There is absolutely positively no reason for any middle school student to be part of a social networking site,” wrote Orsini, who appeared on ABC News’ “Good Morning America” this morning to spread the word.

The principal believes that social networking sites facilitate bullying and exposes kids to sexual predators. He said it is too easy for students to use Facebook to taunt kids or spread rumors.

“It’s become meaner and meaner and they don’t understand” the ramifications of what they write, Orsini said on “GMA” this morning. “They aren’t socially and emotionally ready to understand.” He said that he and his fellow administrators and guidance counselors spend “a huge amount of time” addressing problems that arise in online.

Several children who have committed suicide as a result of online torment were in middle school, including Megan Meier of Missouri and Ryan Halligan of Vermont, who died at age 13.

Orsini said that he knows of fourth graders who have their own Facebook page.  Facebook said its service is only designed for children ages 13 and over, but there is no way to enforce that rule.

The other problem, according to Orsini, is that kids are often posting on sites in the middle of the night “when students are supposed to be asleep.”

Orsinie urged parents to closely monitor their children’s activities online, check their kids’ text messages, and to restrict computers in their bedrooms.

“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,” Orsini wrote in the e-mail to parents.

So far, Orsini said, the parents’ reaction to his missive has been overwhelming positive. But he realizes that it’s not going to be easy to convince kids to log out.

Do you think there should be an age limit for participating in social networking sites? Do schools have a right to ban access to social networking sites?

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About paulabernstein



Paula Bernstein is a freelance writer and social media manager with a background in entertainment journalism. She is also the co-author of Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited.

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15 thoughts on “Principal Urges Students to Log Off Facebook

  1. Miki Speed says:

    I think the school better stop trying to play nanny to MY children. *I* (and my husband) make the rules that govern *OUR* home- not the schools. Get back to teaching reading, mathematics, language arts, social studies, science, art, phys ed, music- and quit trying to usurp my authority.

  2. GtothemfckinP says:

    There *is* an age limit…and it’s 13. I would actually make it 18, if I was in charge. Wasn’t Facebook originally something for college students, anyway?

  3. Garrett Button says:

    If you ban something from a child it only makes it more desirable. This was true when you were a kid, and it’ll be true when these children have kids. This was true during prohibition and through the banning of marijuana. Banning something never works. It looks like we are actually going to have to teach the younger generation to be more responsible instead of just sticking their heads in the ground.

  4. Miki Speed says:

    Yep- Garrett, exactly so. Teach them, don’t ban them. Most of them are savvy enough to circumvent a ban anyway ;-P
    Perhaps the older folks should get up to speed on technology so they can guide their kids through the process and teach them wisely.
    To each his own though. Just make rules for your won home, not mine. Kind of like a uterus ;-)

  5. CKT says:

    Miki – Exactly. Why should a school have a say in what happens off school property, after hours?

  6. GtothemfckinP says:

    Your logic is flawed…kids are “banned” from all kinds of things…driving, alcohol, cigarettes…it’s called them being kids and saving certain things for when they are older and better equipped to handle them.

  7. PlumbLucky says:

    @ Miki Speed – I think that’s the better tack as well – let parents know the basic details, let them know that they really need to educate themselves about it, but don’t outright ban it.
    @GP – I believe at one point you had to have an .edu email address to sign up, it is 13 as the age limit although I think that’s far too young.

  8. Miki Speed says:

    Freedom of speech is not just for adults.

  9. Miki Speed says:

    Activities such as driving, alcohol and tobacco use are governed not by schools, but by the government. A better question to ask would be this:
    With this sort of intrusion, will you stand for the school telling you what video games your child is permitted to play AT HOME? How about what TV programs? How about music? (Good luck with all of my kids being headbangers already, LOL!). And what about books? What happens when a local school district decides to censor your kids’ reading list?
    What makes this proposed ban any different than proposing to ban “Harry Potter” or “Twilight” books in the homes of middle school-aged children? A proposed ban on “heavy metal” or “hip hop”? A proposed ban on “Blades of Glory” for the Wii? Or a proposed ban on Pirates of the Caribbean (rated PG 13)? Would you you support that overriding proposed foray into your private homes and parenting as well?

  10. TC says:

    I really feel bad for schools. They suggest banning sites b/c some parents don’t monitor their kids at home, and it affects what happens at school. When something happens, the first place of blame is “why didn’t the schools do something”. Then when they do… it’s a circle. I applaud the school for raising awareness of a serious matter that is developing in our kids’ generation to parents who otherwise dismiss their children’s activities.

  11. Miki Speed says:

    That’s due to parents shrugging off their own responsibilities and expecting schools to fill the role. I don’t. The local elementary is NOT my children’s parent- and if it wants to be, it can also pick up the bills for their medical care, health insurance premiums, clothing, dental/orthodontics and pro-rated utility bills, etc.

  12. Ri-chan says:

    A school has no right to tell my child what he can and cannot due on his own time, in his own home. While at school they have control in loco parentis (sp?) but when the final bell rings they have no say.

  13. Tanya says:

    I think the principal needs to educate himself about Facebook and share some common-sense tips for safe networking instead of issuing a fatwa against it. There are oodles of controls for Facebook, including the creation of “limited access” groups, block lists, custom restrictions for each scrap of content, limitations on who can even find you on facebook, and various means of hiding annoying people or applications. There is no reason to suffer bullies on FB, or anyone you don’t like for that matter. Block every last one of them and it’s like they don’t even exist (too bad real life isn’t as easy to control!).
    I keep having the same discussion with otherwise savvy people who complain about their lack of privacy on Facebook and don’t realize all the power you actually have. RTFM and help your kids lock their profile down to a limited group of non-bullying friends.
    Facebook has made me closer to my younger siblings and cousins because it creates a “space” where we can share things with each other in a way that you just don’t do through direct communication. With families flung across continents we need these kinds of tools to keep in touch. To remain willfully ignorant of online social networking and cultivate fear around a handful of terrible stories is just foolhardy!

  14. LindaLou says:

    I don’t think it’s any of the school’s business if MY child has a FB account. @@

  15. JEssica says:

    The school does not have a right to ban fb at home but at school I would be fine with it. And if it is a big problem at the school they should punish as needed and notify local law enforcement – I believe slander is still against the law in most states.

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