Facing up to Facebook

Over the past couple of weeks I have been hearing and reading about stories to do with facebook in (and out of) schools.

At schools in Quebec and Ontario, students are being suspended for things that they are posting about their teachers and principals on facebook. These are the same kinds of things that students talk about to each other all the time – but when they put it in writing, in a public forum, it becomes a whole different story.

The thing is, kids don’t realize how public the internet is. Anyone can read what you write in a group on facebook, and when what you write is damaging to the school community I think the school has a responsibility to address it.

However, I don’t think that the issue is being addressed in the right manner. At a school in Ontario, students were suspended from a class trip because of comments they made on facebook while they were at home. According to one of the fathers, the parents and students were informed of this decision without any discussion. (Father: school too harsh on son for online remarks, ctv.ca)

Schools and families need to work together. Arbitrarily punishing someone doesn’t make sense – and doesn’t work. We need to be teaching kids about the realities of online social networks like facebook, and we need to be helping parents to do the same.

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