Principal Urges Students to Log Off Facebook

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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