Category Archives: Social Networking

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.

The Word of the Year

Each year, the New Oxford American Dictionary picks a “Word of the Year.”  Each year, Oxford tracks how the English language is changing, and chooses their word of the year “to reflect the ethos of the year and its lasting potential as a word of cultural significance and use.”

In 2004, Merriam-Webster selected the word “blog,” while Webster’s New World Dictionary went with “overshare” in 2008, inspired by the habit of spewing too much personal information on social networking sites and blogs.

Last year, Oxford’s word was “hypermiling” – i.e., the act of conserving gasoline by making fuel-saving changes to one’s driving habits.

This year, two of the runners-up were:

1. “intexicated” – the state of being distracted while driving and texting at  the same time.
2. “zombie bank” – a financial institution still operating, even though its liabilities are greater than its assets.

Well (drum roll, please), the winner this year is “unfriend,” which is a verb meaning “to remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook.”

Facebook spokeswoman Meredith Chin said that “overall, we’re thrilled that the idea of people connecting, or even unconnecting, with each other on sites like Facebook has officially become part of the lexicon.”

Well, it made me sad that “flicking somebody off the boat” is the word of the year.  The act of eliminating a bond, a connection, a relationship (as superficial and petty as these so-called human bonds are on the web) is a sad thing to represent as the American English word of the year.  It certainly doesn’t elevate our society.  Instead, it mostly reminds me of high school cliques, where kids are excluded on the basis of some temporary, competitive, mean state of mind.

I guess I’m just sad that a negative rules as Word of the Year instead of:

* Congenializing - making nice even when the situation is unpleasant.
* Sexifying – using fluttering eyelashes and a swish of the hips when women alluringly ask their husbands to take out the trash.
* Politisizing – being nice when you really want to pop someone in the nose.

Those are just some of the words I’m going to nominate next year!

Using the Web to Get Revenge

In a recent radio interview, I discussed the issue of “webtribution,” a term coined by Elizabeth Bernstein in The Wall Street Journal to describe people who use the Internet to get revenge – i.e., publicly to hurt another human being with whom they are not happy.

The Internet is anonymous, immediate, and gratifying in the moment.  In human history, vengeance is not unfamiliar – people haven’t changed that much.  Their means of delivering pain has evolved from poison, duels, clever rumors, and Machiavellian manipulation to the world wide web.  In some ways, damaging someone’s reputation is akin to murdering them, as their reputation is devastated world-wide and forever, making it difficult for them to function in private relationships as well as in the community and at work.

To quote The Wall Street Journal:  “Most of us have heard of someone posting naked photos of an ‘ex’ online.  Or writing nasty reviews for a restaurant or book, not because they dislike the product, but because they dislike the person who created it.  Or signing up an acquaintance for [unwanted] e-mail advertising lists.” 

My opinion is that it should be illegal, as it is immoral, to post information or opinion about people without identifying yourself.  Obviously, it is also cowardly.  Google and all other such carriers should not permit anonymity.  That would immediately change the complexion of what is posted, and I don’t think they’d lose business, except from those who use the Internet for evil (terrorists of the international and interpersonal kind). 

Social Network Privacy Not So Private

Facebook and MySpace and other social networking sites have become a means of not only communicating with so-called “friends,” but they also allow for showing off and “going wild” in ways that often come back to bite…even when you think your site is private.

According to the Arizona Daily Star, Ashley Payne, a teacher in an Arizona school said that she was forced to resign after photos and a comment posted on her Facebook page were forwarded to the superintendent of schools in her county.  And she said she had the highest level of privacy controls on her site.  The photos in question showed her in pubs and beer gardens while on summer vacation.  In a comment on her Facebook page, she announced that she was headed to play a game called “Crazy Bitch Bingo.”

According to the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, the bottom line is that “the state code addresses on and off-campus behavior, including inappropriate relationships with students and anything that violates the mores of the community.”

I’m good with that, because teachers have a profound influence on young minds, and being role models seems an obvious obligation.  Not enough teachers think about the consequences of their conduct, not just in terms of their own employment, but in terms of the well-being of the children for whom they are responsible.  Posting extremely inappropriate sexual content and nudity on the web as well as posting photos of teachers yucking it up with booze is a breach of professional conduct.

For teachers, this is obvious.  However, each and every one of you must understand that anybody with knowledge can hack into your private site and edit as well as download and reproduce material elsewhere.  Don’t write or post pictures you would not want to see on the front page of The New York Times, unless, of course, you’re into being infamous.  The word “friend” is simply a term for someone with access to your site.  Don’t imagine that they necessarily have the honor of a real-life friend.  Anything you write or post might be used against you.

Now that this is all said, how about your just inviting real friends over for dinner and meaningful conversation?

It’s Not Easy Being a Good Parent in the Digital Age

I’m turning my blog today over to Kim Komando.  She is a nationally syndicated talk show host, focusing on the Internet and digital consumer electronics.  Kim and I whole-heartedly believe in protecting children and below she details some very important points parents need to be aware of in this digital age.

It’s Not Easy Being a Good Parent in the Digital Age
Kim Komando

I received a call on my national radio show a few weeks ago. A concerned father wanted to know about a particular site on the Internet where his 11-year-old son was chatting online. It seemed harmless. His son created a cartoon-like representation of himself called an avatar.

Dad approved of it. But soon, the son was buying virtual goods for his avatar. Dad took a closer look at what his little boy was about to purchase. Good thing; they were sex toys.

Far too often, parents don’t get involved with their children’s online activities until something bad happens. They dismiss the warning signs. They don’t monitor what the kids are doing because they don’t have the time, their child would never do that, or some other lame excuse.

I am still astounded by the parents who don’t want to invade their child’s privacy. They don’t think it is right to snoop on their child’s Web travels, e-mail and text messages. They usually liken it to reading a teenager’s hidden diary. “No one should do that,” they say.

If only it were that simple.

With the Internet now in our homes and on our phones, this wonderful digital world has brought the inappropriate and criminal elements directly into our lives. What seems harmless and fun can quickly turn into a pedophile’s dream and a parent’s nightmare.

For instance, you may be unaware of Web sites where kids use Webcams. In effect, they broadcast live video and audio from their bedrooms. The people using the live broadcasting sites can watch them. They can leave comments. You can bet pedophiles are watching them, too.

Pedophiles have actually helped kids set up sites. They have arranged credit card acceptance through online payment sites. The children perform sex acts, broadcast with Webcams. The pedophiles pay to watch.

The other day my 8-year-old son Ian received a text-message from his friend John. John wanted to know if he downloaded a particular free game from iTunes. The rule in my home is that before anything gets downloaded, Ian and I learn more about it. I need to approve it.

The game these two boys were talking about had a plot something like this: A convicted felon escapes from prison. He is roaming the streets of downtown Los Angeles. He needs to make money to survive and go on missions. To do this, he has to kill people.

Needless to say, that game didn’t make it onto his phone.

Social-networking sites are less dangerous. But you still have to watch what children say. They have profiles. Be sure they’re not including their phone numbers and addresses.

Again, the best protection is alert parents. Don’t wait for trouble! Be proactive!

Need some help? Here are tips to help you get in front of the issues.

* Find out if sex offenders live in your area http://www.komando.com/kids/tip.aspx?id=2306
* Cell phone plans that put you in control and even tell you where the phone is located http://www.komando.com/kids/tip.aspx?id=3861
* Figure out text messaging lingo http://www.komando.com/kids/tip.aspx?id=3496
* Control kids iTunes use http://www.komando.com/kids/tip.aspx?id=4092
* The free tool that I use to block inappropriate content in my home http://www.komando.com/tips/index.aspx?id=6501

The Kim Komando Show (www.komando.com) is the largest nationally syndicated weekend talk radio show. Kim Komando focuses on the Internet and digital consumer electronics. Komando also distributes the Kim Komando Digital Minute, a one-minute consumer update on digital news.  

Families Need a No Wireless Zone

“Technology is the Evil Empire, Bent On Destroying Family Intimacy!” That’s the headline I’d like to put on this post, but guns don’t shoot people – people shoot people – so technology is not destroying families. People are destroying their own families.

The technology I’m talking about is texting, video gaming, Facebook, email, Twitter, MySpace and more. Remember when the only complaint about lack of communication in families was when family members were all in separate rooms watching different television programs? Well, now, family members can all be in the same room, totally ignoring each other for the sake of fake friends and useless information, instead of for family conversations. Some family members even text each other from different parts of the same home, rather than walk the 15 feet, hug, and talk to each other.

I remember the not-so-recent TV ads that promoted a family eating dinner together. Now, if you showed an ad with a family at the dinner table, there’d have to be a sign nearby that said “No Wireless Zone.” I wonder what depth of interaction is being missed because one is getting superficial “quickies” from texting or emailing or Facebooking?  On the other hand, I already know that we’re less able to engage in reasoned, significant discourse and profound intimacies these days, because, from the age of 4 or 5, we’re geared toward the superficial, faceless exchange of comments on each other’s web pages.

Parents, you must get yourselves into gear and limit the amount of time per day donated to the wireless world outside of work. Otherwise, over time, there’ll be no need for lips and vocal cords and eye contact, and we’ll evolve into “thumbs only” beings who just peck away with a false sense of actually participating in the real world.

The Emptiness of Internet “Friending”

Either directly (e.g., sadness about not having a relationship with a parent or sibling) or indirectly (e.g., having trouble being intimate), more and more callers to my radio program report a sad sort of alienation from close, loving relationships. Yet the numbers of people deeply invested in “virtual” relationships via Internet “friending” social networks like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, is growing exponentially. We are involved more in frivolous levels of intimacy and less invested in warm, caring, loving, involved relationships.

The pseudo meaningfulness we imagine as we add our names and faces to someone’s Internet site is addictive, yet ultimately vacuous. There isn’t really anyone out there who cares enough to hold your hand when you are in pain.

The Annenberg Center for the Digital Future at the University of California reported last week that 28% of Americans interviewed last year said they have been spending less time with family members. That’s nearly triple from the numbers in 2006.

In the old days when television was young, families watched together in one room. Now there are TVs in every room of the home, with 500 or more channels, and the family is dispersed, with each “doing their own thing.” The Internet is a one-on-one, non-family experience also – breaking down the cohesiveness of family dynamics, parenting, sharing, and plain old caring.

The problem is that people are, by nature, gregarious. That means we need company. When we spend our time with the technology that minimizes the intimacy of company, we forever alter the ability of individuals to actually experience pure intimacy in a positive, ultimately satisfying manner. And the experience of having lots of so-called “friends” on the Internet is beguiling, but empty — -in effect, a distorted form of solitude.

There is no wonder that so many people have a deep problem with being able to love – they mostly want to be satisfied by flattery, freedom from reciprocal responsibility and the reality of obligations and responsibilities, much less sacrifice for the general good or the benefit of another.

Technological advances in “communication” have actually increased the number of people you can interact with, but have more importantly diluted out the meaningfulness of those same interactions.

Think of families together at dinner, and a whole town helping rebuild your barn. Compare that to what you have now in your life. Which is better for quality of life?

Social Networking for Tots

If I were any more disgusted with modern parenting my head would explode.  I just about screamed so loudly that they could hear me in Dallas, where the Dallas Morning News published a piece with the headline:  “Social Networking Sites Cater to Moms and Babies.”  What?  What?  What?  Internet social networking for babies?  What the heck does that even mean?

I’ll tell you what it means: it’s another self-centered, insensitive, lazy, neglectful way for most mothers to pretend they actually care about their children and are making the sacrifices and efforts to give kids what the kids NEED.

Here’s a great comment from the article: “The messages, of course, are from parents, usually moms, who say sites such as TotSpot provide them with TIME-SAVING ALTERNATIVES to PLAY DATES and FACE-TO-FACE RELATIONSHIPS…”  [Note:  The capitalization is mine].

So let me understand this…these so-called mothers spend time on the computer posting pictures and descriptions of their kids to virtual strangers (which we now call virtual “friends”) and get texted back with the saying, “You’ve been tickled,” and they assume that this in any way serves any need for any baby or toddler?

Other equally ridiculous mothers (and all these women actually gave their real names…is there no shame?) are quoted as saying that they don’t have time (what happened to MAKING time) for actual play dates…this way they can connect with moms and kids without leaving the house or the office.

Since when were play-dates only about the moms?  I always thought play-dates were about introducing children – FACE TO FACE – to other children, adults, environments, pets, experiences, and so forth.  I didn’t realize play-dates were just “jabber jabber” time for busy busy women who seem to wish to live in a virtual world rather than the concrete one their children will have to deal with eventually.  These are probably the kind of women who get crazed when their husbands choose to do the same with naked women on the internet.

Aside from the oh so obvious problems with parents putting information about children on the internet (a pedophile’s play land), it directs children (from the time they’re infants and toddlers) toward a life on the computer instead of in the park, the back yard, the street, a friend’s home, etc.

Many of the parents spoke about being “proud” of their babies and wanted to show them off and have them – even before they can burp on their own – have their very own social web page.  This is so utterly pathetic.

This is all about three things:
1. FEELING, versus  BEING connected.
2. FAKING being a parent who nurtures, protects, teaches, and loves by a web page    
3. SHOWING off your child and text-gossiping

Let me go back to that one most damning statement in the Dallas Morning News piece: “The messages, of course, are from parents, usually moms, who say sites such as TotSpot provide them with time-saving alternatives to play dates and face-to-face relationships, while helping them connect with parents and children in nontraditional ways.”

We’ve come a long way, baby…we’ve become women…mothers…who are too busy to introduce our kids to life.  Great.