Two interesting articles have appeared in the Geelong Advertiser and the Brisbane Times this week. Both relate implicitly to our young people and how they go about their social and academic business in an online world.
Firstly, an unnamed magistrate has spoken out against Facebook, saying that ‘If I had my way, there wouldn’t be a Facebook. And it would save me a lot of the work I have to do in this court.’ Harsh and controversial words indeed. However, it does highlight the impact that Facebook is having on both those people who are not emotionally or cognitively mature enough to use Facebook in a positive way, and the victims of bullying and abuse who are targeted in a CyberBullying scenario. Both lives can be potentially damaged in different ways.
A Geelong secondary student was granted an intervention order against a fellow student, after six years of abusive behaviour. Such behaviour included stealing, verbal threats, assault, stalking, threatening phone calls and abusive Facebook messages. The situation was so bad that the principal suggested the victim move to a different school as he could not guarantee her safety.
(Matthews, Karen. (2011) Facebook Slammed in Court, http://www.geelongadvertiser.com.au/article/2011/10/21/286775_news.html, viewed on 25/10/2011)
The bottom line here is that Facebook is not to blame for the initial behaviour, but is now being used to perpetuate the cycle of bullying. Here are some simple tips for parents whose children have a Facebook account:
• Do not allow your child to have a Facebook account until they are over 13 and are mature enough to use it in a positive and appropriate manner
• Create your own account so that you can monitor what your children are doing on Facebook
• Use software like the Parental Control Bar to block Facebook during study time
• Discuss with your child what you consider appropriate content for Facebook
• Discuss a course of action if your child feels bullied, threatened or uncomfortable when viewing something on Facebook
In another related article, anti-bullying expert Dr Michael Carr-Gregg has recommended that Queensland students must receive a ‘phone licence’ if they wish to take their mobile phones to school. Students would be required to sit a web-based test before being permitted to use their device at school. The advice is that mobile phones are like cars in that people need to be educated and reach a certain level of efficiency to avoid dangerous situations.
Queensland Teachers’ Union president Steve Ryan said the licence idea could help address cyber-bullying.
“Providing it does not cause additional workloads for schools, we’d consider it in the context of a range of recommendations around cyber-bullying by students.”
(AAP, (2011) Phone licences for schoolies? It could happen, http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/phone-licences-for-schoolies-it-could-happen-20111021-1mc20.html viewed 25/10/2011)
There is a robust debate in educational circles about students being allowed to use mobile phones in a learning context. Some schools even allow students to have phones at school at all times, relying on their education and policies to regulate use. Of course, students are not just phoning and texting with their phones. Smart phones allow internet access, which can help students to learn. It can also give them access to content that they cannot access in a home environment.