Monthly Archives: May 2010

Quote of the Week

She who forms the souls of the young is greater than any painter or sculptor.
               – Saint John Chrysostom
                  Archbishop of Constantinople
                  C 347-407

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms on Sunday, May 9!

Happy Mother's Day

Principal Says NO to Social Networks for Kids

I am very happy to tell you about my hero, Anthony Orsini, the principal at Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Ridgewood, New Jersey.  He recently sent the following email to all parents of children attending his school:

Dear BF Community:
When I arrived in Ridgewood, Facebook did not exist, YouTube did not exist, and MySpace was barely in existence.  Formspring (one of the newest Internet scourges, a site meant simply to post cruel things about people anonymously) wasn’t even in someone’s mind.

In 2010, social networking sites have now become commonplace, and technology use by students is beyond prevalent.

It is time for every single member of the BF community to take a stand!

There is absolutely no reason for any middle school student to be a part of a social networking site!

Let me repeat that – there is absolutely, positively no reason for any middle school student to be a part of a social networking site!  None.

5 of the last 8 parents who we have informed that their child was posting inappropriate things on Facebook said their child did not have an account.  Every single one of the students had an account.

3 students yesterday told a guidance counselor that their parents told them to close their accounts when the parents learned they had an account.  All three students told their parents it was closed.  All three students still had an account after telling their parents it was closed.

Most students are part of more than one social networking site.

Please do the following:  sit down with your child (and they are just children still) and tell them that they are not allowed to be a member of any social networking site.  Today!

Let them know that you will at some point every week be checking their text messages online!   You have the ability to do this through your cell phone provider.

Let them know that you will be installing Parental Control software so you can tell every place they have visited online, and everything they have instant messaged or written to a friend.  Don’t install it behind their back, but install it!

Over 90% of homework does not require the Internet, or even a computer.  Do not allow them to have a computer in their room.  There is no need.

Know that they can text others even if their phone doesn’t have texting capability, either through the computer or through their iPod Touch.

Have a central “docking system,” preferably in your bedroom, where all electronics in the home get charged each night, especially anything with a cell or with wi-fi capability (remember when you were in high school and you would sneak the phone into your bedroom at Midnight to talk to your girlfriend or boyfriend all night – now imagine what they can do with the technology in their rooms).

If your son or daughter is attacked through one of these sites or through texting, immediately go to the police!  Insist that they investigate every situation.  Also, contact the site and report the attack to the site – they have an obligation to suspend accounts, or they are liable for what is written.

We as a school can offer guidance and try to build up any student who has been injured by the social networking scourge, but please insist the authorities get involved.

For online gaming, do not allow them to have the interactive communication devices.  If they want to play Call of Duty online with someone from Seattle, fine.  They don’t need to talk to the person.

The threat to your son or daughter from online adult predators is insignificant compared to the damage that children at this age constantly and repeatedly do to one another through social networking sites or through text and picture messaging.

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.

I will be more than happy to take the blame off you as a parent if it is too difficult to have the students close their accounts, but it is time they all get closed and the texts always get checked.

I want to be clear – this email is not anti-technology, and we will continue to teach responsible technology practices to students.  They are simply not psychologically ready for the damage that one mean person online can cause, and I don’t want any of our students to go through the unnecessary pain that too many of them have already experienced.

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.

Learn as a family about cyber safety together at www.wiredsafety.org for your own knowledge.  It is a great site.  But then do everything I asked in this email – because there really is no reason a child needs to have one of these accounts.

Please take action in your own home today.

Sincerely,

Anthony Orsini
Principal, BFMS

Now Principal Orsini is MY kind of principal, and my kind of leader in the community.  This should go nationwide. 

The sites have become a tool for children to do psychological harm to each other; it has become a menace to children.  Much of what guidance counselors have to deal with these days regards social networking issues.  It is time for you parents to ACT.

Happy Meals Not So Happy

It appears that McDonald’s “Happy Meal” toys and other promotions that come with high-calorie children’s meals will soon be banned in parts of California, unless the restaurants in question meet certain nutritional guidelines.

In favor of such a ban are public health administrators, parents, and physicians.
Opposed to such a ban are fast-food franchisees, other parents, and fans of fast-food toys, who say the promotions are often used to provide Christmas presents for poor children.

Physicians point out that the toys are a powerful lure for children, encouraging them to eat unhealthy food, which then helps cause obesity.  Many parents buy the unhealthy food for their children specifically because toys come with the meal!

Here’s my take on this problem:  again, parents are not parenting.

The Amazing Spirit of Enlistees

Last week, I attended an event in the beautiful city of Huntington Beach, California.  It was the second annual “Battle Shark Challenge” hosted by the United States Army.  The Army invited new enlistees from southern California to come to the beach to compete in small groups in such activities as:  push ups, sit ups, tug of war, football, Frisbee, rock wall climbing, a 2 mile run, throwing grenades (fake ones, of course) and carrying a “wounded” soldier through a mine field (blindfolded).

I participated in everything except Frisbee and football.  My team of 6 won the push up and sit up contests, and we also won the activity where you had to carry a “wounded” soldier through a mine field.  Everyone was blindfolded except the leader who had to give instructions.  The first time I played the wounded soldier; the second time I was the leader and we beat the previous best time by over a minute.  We lost the tug of war, and I wasn’t able to throw my grenade further than the closest-in target.  I did the run, however, in less time than that required to qualify for enlisting in the Army, but they still wouldn’t take me!

It was an amazing experience to meet about 1500 young men and women who are willing to put their lives on the line for you and me.  I was impressed by their spirit, tenacity, good humor, self-respect, hard work, and commitment.  These are certainly NOT the types of kids who spend their days on Facebook or Twitter.  You have to be awed by how unique and special they are.

Families came out to show their support, although it was very sad to me when one young woman came up to ask me how to handle her parents, who won’t talk to her since she enlisted.  They didn’t show up for this event either.  Shame on them and shame for them.  They missed an opportunity to see their child elevated in her own spirit and in our eyes.  I told her that I’d be her surrogate mother, and that she now owed me a Mother’s Day card.  We hugged a lot.

Frankly, I just wanted to hug them all.  I AM the proud mother of an American combat infantryman…very proud.  I am saddened for any parent who chooses to shun their child because they’ve made the selfless choice to defend all Americans.

That’s why we have to support them all.  Whenever you see anybody in uniform, shake their hands, buy them lunch, and/or tell them you’re grateful.  It DOES mean a lot to them.

Quote of the Week

Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.
               – Nathaniel Hawthorne
                  American novelist
                  1804-1864