11/12/2006

High School Students and Online Forums

What would you tell this guy? I’m more interested in the perspectives of the students themselves; what is acceptable behavior for mechanchim vis-à-vis student journals, blogs, and facebooks pages, and what oversteps the boundaries into ‘stalkerish’ behavior?

To: lookjed@mail.biu.ac.il
Sent: Tuesday, November 07, 2006 5:58 PM
Subject: "My Space" and "Face Book"

Although I hope, that as mechanchim, most LOOKJED readers are familiarwith My Space and Face Book, for those who are not, I will give a briefdescription.
At each of these sites, teenagers (as well as adults) cancreate their own page with pictures, graphics, text and more. It is achance to put forward the image that you would like others to have of you.Posters (and on My Space anyone) can see the pages of other posters andrequest to be their "friend", creating a virtual link, or more, betweenthem.Many our students - and this is true in virtually all types of schools -are making use of these sites. It goes without saying that the "friends"they are making are often not of the kind we would wish them to have.(That is to say nothing of the reports of stalkers making use of thesesites). Additionally, the language and images used on some of ourstudents' pages would make a sailor blush. Additionally, students can makeclaims about their teachers and schools that are now put out there asfacts for anyone to see.If you are naive enough to think that this is not an issue in your school,sign up at Face Book and do a classmate search using your school name. Youwill not be able to see your student's page, but you can see the name,pictures and schools of their "friends". Alternatively do a search on MySpace using your community name and see what you find. On My Space, beaware however that you might see things that are problematic, to say theleast.

What should our response be as educators? Perhaps we should have educationnights for parents, who I suspect are all too oblivious to what theirchildren are doing on the computer at night. This might be an opportunityfor parents to have important discussions with their children. Shouldadministrators try to discover who has these pages and deal with those whohave pages that are antithetical to their school community? To be sure,our students will feel that this is their private life outside of schooland that we have no right to pry, but I feel comfortable saying that wemust not remain ignorant or on the sidelines. To do so would no differentthen ignoring a party out of school where illegal substances were used.I would very much like to hear what others are doing about this challengingissue, or at the least, what they think should be done.
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