The intent is admirable -- to crack down on cyber bullying that has become rampant among children. However, the means one principal is taking is more than extreme as she's threatening to expel any child under the age of 13 who has a Facebook account.
According to a story in The Sydney Morning Herald, Leonie Hultgren, the principal of Harlaxton State School in Toowoomba, Queensland, isn't just talking about children who use Facebook during school hours, or those who have been accused of using it maliciously, but rather ANY student that has an account that's not 13. She says those are the rules of the site, and for good reason. She believes children younger than that aren't mature enough to handle the responsibility of it, and she for one isn't going to tolerate it.
Never mind what those people called parents at home think. She's reaching beyond the school doors and into people's homes to dictate what they can and can't do. What a slippery slope that is.
In a pretty condescending letter to parents, Hultgren wrote:
It may seem insignificant to lie about your age to gain access to a social media site but where does it stop? Will they then think it is okay to lie about their age to gain a licence? Parents, you are your child's first teachers. What do you want them to learn? How do you want them live their lives? Is your example a socially acceptable example?
Now, I agree with her to some extent. Helping your kids get around rules and regulations is a dicey move and can set a bad precedent (but mom, you let me lie on Facebook, why can't I get fake ID ? ... ), but that's a parent's prerogative. Some may feel their children are plenty mature to handle it, just like some parents let their children watch R-rated movies. Is she going to expel them too?
As much as I think it's great that schools try to teach good, law-abiding behavior in the classroom, that's where it should end. It's the parents' job to take it from there and either reinforce it or not.
A report last year showed that 7.5 million children under the age of 13 have Facebook accounts in the United States alone, so clearly it's not just a few rogue kids who are the problem. There may not be many kids in school once she starts enforcing this practice. Not only that, it seems like she's taking the easy way out of what's a much more complicated problem. Social media is here to stay and is only going to grow as children grow, so instead of trying to ban them from it, we need to instead teach them more tolerance, respect, and boundaries in all situations -- whether online or off.
Do you think this school is right to expel children under 13 who have Facebook accounts?
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