Facebook Furore!

I came across this article on the Stuff website about children’s use of Facebook at a Wellington Primary School which had got itself in a bit of strife when trying to sort out issues around children’s use of Facebook.

Take a read!


I wonder if the paper is reporting the issue as it actually unfolded?

I see many underage children on Facebook. Most, I believe, are there with their parent’s knowlege and permission, over-riding Facebook’s own rules.

I wonder why the school, the parents or whoever, didn’t just go looking for themselves for what children are doing on Facebook, rather than having children expose their accounts?

In one place the article says that children should never surrender their passwords and indeed they shouldn’t but nowhere in the article did it actually say that the children ever did share their passwords, they just shared their timeline view.

And this from a concerned parent…

The woman, who did not want to be named because it could identify her daughter, was “computer illiterate” and had no computer of her own to monitor her daughter’s online activity.

She thought someone should be policing online age restrictions, but not schools. “I agree children shouldn’t be on Facebook under the age of 13, but it’s not the school’s place to be sorting this out.

“After school and weekends are a family’s time, not school’s time.”

She had consulted a lawyer about whether schools had powers to police pupils’ personal social media sites and she knew of other parents doing the same.

She doesn’t have a computer, is happily digitally illiterate and doesn’t think the school should be involved but has been to the police to find out if the school is legally allowed to be concerned. ‘Someone’ should check!!!!!!! Who does she think that ‘someone’ might be! I would say she is the parent she should act like one and know where her kids are and back the school for trying to do something about it.

Newspaper article of Facebook issue

Newspaper article of Facebook issue

What is a school to do when they know their children are behaving badly, parents are ignorate of the problem and will happily consult lawyers to see if the school is even allowed to intervene in on line activity that happens ‘in family time’.

The whole article makes me sad.

What would you do in the same situation?


11 thoughts on “Facebook Furore!

  1. I also read the article with interest Allanah. It particularly resonated with me as I had a conversation with a 10 year old student just last week about Facebook. His parents had helped him set up an account and he reeled off the names of 5-6 other students in his class that he talked with using FB. I think that unless there is an issue with students misusing their accounts and not practicing good digital citizenship which goes on to effect the students learning and security or that of others then it is a parental issue. It is a hugely problematic issue for schools to wade into, as this case has shown. I have a feeling Boards and Principals get rather worried whenever lawyers are mentioned!
    Fb can be a wonderful resource and I have a school FB page which I spend a lot of time maintaining (www.facebook.com/plateauschool) it has proven to be a valuable way to bring all sorts of people into the school digitally that would normally perhaps feel reticent about getting involved.
    If it is causing an issue then I would be looking at working with the parents and the children to solve it. Trying to use other students to get to the bottom of issues is a long standing practice in schools. Finding out who said what to whom or who passed which note to who in class is rather different to launching an investigation into social media practices though.
    Could it be a case of traditional methods not being used to solve a modern problem?
    As an aside I do know of one school that had a teacher set up a fake FB profile and was amazed to find that many students had 2 FB accounts- the one their parents know about and the “other” one which had a lot of information and activity that they would not approve of. A dodgy practice, but rather revealing of children’s digital habits and how they can and will easily find a way to circumvent parental restrictions and management.
    as Ben said to Luke: “This is a dangerous time for you… and you will be tempted by the Dark Side of the Force”

  2. We aren’t given any real facts and the article is poorly written and confusing, but from the gist of what is written I thought the school’s actions seemed sneaky, nasty and OTT. I don’t think the school should have got involved the way the did. A parents’ evening to discuss and educate would have been more appropriate. And now (of course!) there is another group of parents annoyed about what the school has done and consulting lawyers. Hopefully the school will learn something here.

  3. Lyn,

    Interesting how different perceptions of the same article resonate differently with different people. I was wondering how you thought the school’s reaction to attempting to inform themselves and concerned parents to be sneaky, nasty and over the top.

    How I read the article, some parents had come to principal asking for advice. The school wanted to see for themselves what was happening and asked some students to show them.

    For me it’s a bit like telling tales about swearing in the playground. Unless you find out what was actually said it is hard to make a reasoned decision.

    It would have been poor form for the school to have ignored the parent’s concerns and waited for the problem to escalate into an even bigger problem.

    Agreed, the article was poorly written and not well full of good information.

  4. Nigel,

    I think my judgements around the use of Facebook by the underage is flavoured by some underage youths (not school related) that are my ‘friends’ on Facebook who post ridiculous and sometimes hurtful things in the space. I would like to unfriend them but feel at least if I am in the social space with them I can at least know what is going on.

    Also, sadly, yes the two Facebook accounts is a whole ‘nother issue.

    Thank you for taking the time to share your views.


  5. Hi Allanah,

    Several things made me think is was sneaky (ok, ‘Nasty might be a bit harsh – ‘overbearing’ might be better. It could have been handled with more empathy);
    1. Parents had concerns about ‘their children’s internet use’ (It doesn’t say Facebook specifically)
    2. The school asked students to log on to facebook (why?) – and its hard to be unwilling to do something when the principal asks you to do it.
    3. If the concerns were about being under 13 and having a facebook account, why the need to get students to log in?
    4. During this exercise the school finds out ‘”useful information” about many of the school’s other pupils.’ This must have taken a bit of reading & exploring time and that seems wrong to me … so I’m with Netsafe on that.

  6. Hi Allanah

    I thought about writing a blog about this article also. I think that the school probably had an opportunity here that instead of asking students to show their (or others?) facebook pages, they could’ve taken some time to educate both the children and the parents on safe and responsible use and monitoring online. I think it’s important for parents to monitor what their children are doing online and yes, they need to be the parent and be proactive in it, not take the easy road out and say they are computer ‘illiterate’.

    As parents of 5, the oldest being 12, my wife and I have made it very clear that our 12 year old (and the others) can’t have a facebook account until they’re 13. They also have to discuss with us about signing up for other accounts etc. We’ve tried very hard to keep communication channels open and to be open and honest with all our children. Hopefully it will pay off in the teenage years.

    I think the school in this case needed to do something, but perhaps went too far, or perhaps the article just isn’t quite clear enough as to what went on.

    – Nathaniel

  7. Thank you for taking a moment to comment Nathaniel,

    I’m tempted the ring the school and find out what actually happened as opposed to what the press says happened but I am sure they have enough going on and don’t want to add to the pressure!

    Agreed, I think the answer is communication- from all parties- children, parents, teachers, schools.

  8. I am pleased you began your commentary with a question about the media reporting. It would be most unusual if the report was accurate.

    I am also pleased to see from the interactions that there is still a part of NZ where underage use of Facebook does not escalate into serious consequences and clearly a mix of education and mature conversation is sufficient to address any issues arising.

    Whatever really went down, that school has my sympathies.

  9. Hi Allanah,

    yes many things have already been said here and to add to that I would like to emphasise that communication and education are the keys here. I don’t want to criticise the school either, it is such a mine field they have entered. However I would like to suggest, as have others, that parents cannot abdicate responsibility around things digital that their kids are doing. It is their job to learn what is going on and like Nathaniel said keep lines of communication open. They could get their kids to teach them and go on this journey together. What great relationships that could build!

  10. I think this is not just a Facebook issue. I have recently set up a class gmail acct to allow students to use google docs. This blog has now got me thinking about what could go wrong. Think I will revisit cyber safety and responsible use lesson.

  11. Hello Stuart,

    Yes we can’t think of everything and new things keep on getting added to the mix but we need to try and think through the possible pitfalls to cut of potential problems before they arise.

    Thank you for the feedback.

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