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Confusing Parents

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I’m sure you’ve heard by now the Principal in NJ that is asking parents to ban all Social-Networking sites from students. You can find his full e-mail to parents at the link or watch this interview below:

So basically I take two things away from this video:

1. Parents are the problem and need to be told by the school how to raise their children.
2. That because “2% of kids are going to say something” we want you to ban all social-networking sites.

That’s funny because I’m sure that:

2% of kids have bullied on the playground yet we’ve never banned recess.
2% of kids have bullied on the bus….yet we haven’t banned buses.
2% of kids have bullied at the bus stop….yet we haven’t banned bus stops.

Do I need to continue?

Then you have Steve Nelson, the chief IT strategist for the State of Oregon Department of Education, who just connected all 400,000 public school children in the state to Google Apps. Giving every student the power of Gchat, Gdocs, GCal and Gmail creating a state wide social-networking platform for all public school children in the state. Oh…right…and saved $1.5 million a year.

I have looked to find more coverage on this but no video by ABC and very little talk of this at all outside local Oregon sites and technology blogs. Why doesn’t Steve get a turn telling how he’s connecting kids for the betterment of education? Right…I forgot….there’s nothing to be scared of in that story.

And we wonder why parents are confused. This principal wants to ban students from connecting, and this state wants to connect them all together.

I love this new world that we are now living in and all this stuff we’re trying to figure out. I just wish both of these stories would get equal attention.

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. So sad that he is says, “the overwhelming majority use it safely”, yet wants to shut it down. I agree with your comments about how we do not shut other things down when there is a small minority bullying. Hopefully we can work with kids to be safe and become more effective that way. Thanks for posting this.

  2. Good post and not surprising. Schools and education get the most press when something negative occurs. I agree that the TV station/reporter should find a social networking advocate and get their point of view. Kids are using social networking at home whether schools like it or not. You can get rid of the problem by banning phones, iPods, and I guess computers, but I do not see that happening soon. I think its better to teach safe practices, responsibility, educational value, etc.
    Good topic.

  3. I love the way you turn the 2% quote around Jeff! Imagine if we banned pencils and pens because 2% of kids were using them inappropriately to tease others in class!

    I’ve said this in a couple posts before:
    ‘If we (educators and parents) don’t participate with students online, then we run the risk of having misguided or inexperienced friends, or worse yet bullies, becoming greater influences than us in their lives.’

    If we ban kids, then the only 2% that will get on social network sites are the ones we wouldn’t want on there anyway and so the problem won’t go away, it will just get hidden from view… And worse yet, when a (good) kid does sneak on to a social network behind their parent’s backs, and then gets bullied… who can that kid turn to? Not there parents, that can be certain!

    Do we want to shed some light on what appropriate online behavior looks like, or should we just keep kids ‘in the dark’… where the bullies always seem to win?

  4. Mike Bryant Reply

    So glad you wrote about this and included the Oregon piece. I was amazed that the principal said, twice, “There is absolutely no reason for any middle school student to be a part of a social networking site!,”. I hope the parents there question what year their school is preparing their kids for, 1985 or 2015.

    • and if education’s job is to help prepare students to be contributing members to the democratic process. We know that social-networking will play a larger and larger part in the election of officials in the coming years. In my mind we should be obligated to teach students about social-networkings in helping them filter messages and use it to gain information in electing officials.

  5. Hmm, The mass media continue to peddle FUD and TV producers continue to build story lines around the missing girl who used an internet chat room. There is no evidence to support that children are at any more or less risk online than in the places you mention.

    In particular, this FUD is increasingly aimed at online games, again with no supporting evidence. Parents don’t mute their TV set when a child enters the room; nor can they predict what will be shown. How many took 8 year olds to watch Avatar? How many listen to moronic breakfast radio hosts on the way to school.

    I can’t see how you will change the minds of a generation brought up to believe that reality TV is in fact reality – where watching Fatest Loser is more important than reading with your kids.

    The mechanisms in place to ban web, mobile and games from education have deep roots in how government uses all forms of media to shape the society that best suits their viewpoint. School is the foundation of that message – so they are not about to open their minds to new input.

    I return to Avatar the Movie – We are transfixed at the technical genius of it’s production, but as a narrative, it depicts the destruction on native cultures worldwide – and the degree to which technology serves it’s master. We like the idea of breaking free, far more than we like the reality of doing so. We are now presented with so many choices, we are terrified of making the wrong ones. In the mean time we allow others too. Bizarre world, even a financial melt down showed how willing we are to stick with someone elses plan.

  6. Hi Jeff,
    This post hauntingly reminds me of a wall being built at the “frontera” of the USA and Mexico…You can build it, but people will find a way around it, under it, through it and beyond….same same with banning social networking….kids will figure it out….in fact, it was STUDENTS in Israel who created texting and chat to help them learn and stay connected!

  7. My primary problem is the statement that there is no reason for middle school students to use social networking sites. As a college student I am very aware of some of the many uses that social networking can serve. We frequently use facebook to post pictures taken from lab, so that all of us can access the pictures at home. My personal favorite is Google docs. I am sure that these middle school students are assigned group projects, and for students that are still unable to drive and may have trouble meeting to work on projects, Google docs can be a god-send. As educators we should be encouraging students to use the technology available to them intelligently and responsibly. That is hte only way to truly prepare students for the future.

  8. Jeff,

    Orsini wrote, “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.”

    When a boy or girl plays, say, softball they have coaches. But when the time comes, our sons or daughters step into the batter’s box–alone. Sports teams are all social networking sites. No parent, coach, umpire or principal can protect our children from cheaters, bullies (anyone who has ever played softball knows how much trash talking is part of the game), or “the poor actions of anonymous others” (also known as the opposing fans). But this is the field where our kids learn how to deal with the good and the bad and, as cliche as it sounds, the ugly. We teach, I hope, our sons and daughters to be good sports. In fact, that’s much more important than having a good batting average.

    Whether Orsini likes it or not, we must “teach responsible social networking to students because these sites are part of the world in which we live.” Just as we need to teach our sons and daughters what good sportmanship means, we need to teach them what good online behavior (techpersonship?) means.

    Yeah, I know . . . techpersonship is really a clumsy word. 🙂


  9. Clearly cyberbullying is a big issue at that school. I wonder if anyone has tried rewriting the letter? If this was your school and you wanted to involve parents to be part of the solution what would you say? How would you adress the fact that the majority of middle schoolers are too young to ‘legally’ have an online account? I’m not saying that I disagree with the sentiments of this post or the comments so far, but if I were a concerned parent who was not social network savvy I would tend to agree with the principal.

  10. Pete Spencer Reply

    I don’t think you can make a blanket observation that all social networking is bad or all is good. Doesn’t it depend upon the nature of the site and the age of the participants?

    Most parents don’t let children use adult power tools without strict supervision. Most don’t drop them off at a mall and come back two hours later to pick them up just because that’s what people do in the real world.

    Related to the sports analogy above, youth teams are usually coached by adults, parents are usually present during practice or at games, and even when kids get a pickup game going by themselves, it is with a limited number of kids most of whom know each other well.

    The dynamics of interactions within sites such as Facebook cannot necessarily be compared to teasing on the bus or playground. The numbers of people involved are different, the level of anonymity is different, the fact that the comments are in writing and linger for days and weeks is different. Just as we say that such networking can transform education, it may be transforming bullying; how it’s done and its impact on others.

    Networking sites can be wonderful tools for learning content and collaborating with others even at young ages. But the sites should be appropriate to the ages and development of the students. I would not tell parents that there is no reason for middle school students to use a social networking site. But I would work to help them learn about the benefits and potential hazards of such sites and how they can join with the school to teach students how to maximize the former and minimize the latter.

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  12. I believe that cyber bullying must be addressed and that it can lead to tragic events. That said, I am not sure why I have read so much about cyber bullying and the public schools. If children are not allowed to use such technology in schools (phones) and social networking sites are blocked, how is it the schools’ responsibility to make the change? Maybe I am thinking about it all wrong, maybe we should bring anything that endangers school aged children into the classroom and address it there. I guess I just wish that rather than looking to the school system to solve all of our problems, we should start looking at how to make families more successful.

  13. I think that parents just need to have more suppervision with their children. This does not just happen on the internet, it happens with texting as well. Just the other day we have two studentsat our school who were bulling over test messageing and one of the girls got the cops involved and that child was punished. I think that this is just a parent issue. If we as parents will have supervision over our children a lot of this stuff would never happen.

  14. I think we should ban pencils because a classmate (3% of the class) once stabbed me with one! Better yet, ban paper as well because 6 of that class (18%) were caught passing a nasty note about another pupil. Shameful misuse of resources! As stated above, the media are only concerned with spreading fear uncertainty and doubt (fud). Perhaps it is because they feel threatened by the new technology because it challenges their monopoly on information.

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