Published on March 21st, 2012 | by Jeff Herb0
Facebook vs Education – Who Wins?
I like to think that a large part of my day isn’t dedicated to roving the network looking for students that aren’t doing what they are supposed to be doing. The reality is that no matter what I am doing at my desk, the monitoring software is always running on one of my screens. More often than not I can look up and see someone on Facebook.
Let’s jump back a little and discuss why the social networking site isn’t blocked in our district. At one time, a couple years ago, it was blocked. As social media grew and the district made it a priority for students, staff, and the community to interact with the district using this technology, it seemed fit to unblock the site and allow access to the district. Even when it was blocked, students proved themselves resourceful. They found proxies that slipped past our filter in minutes. Believe me, I admire and appreciate the lax filtering – but at what cost?
Fights, bullying, rumors, threats. All these have started on Facebook and ended up in schools. By no means is this limited to our school – it is in schools across the country. Whether a school blocks it or not, mobile devices and the necessity in which students must check their account leads them to always stay informed regarding what is said and by whom.
It is a scary reality for educators. Many are truly unaware of the vast level of communication taking place before, during, and after class. It is happening without people saying a word to each other – and that is the scary part. Facebook chat, messages, and status updates make up a significant amount of the communication between teens, and when they aren’t conversing directly you know that misunderstandings are bound to take place.
Think of a text message or email you have sent to a friend or colleague that was intended to mean one thing but was taken completely differently. It was likely because that person couldn’t hear your inflection or tone. If you are anything like me, it is a heart-stopping event – for both the sender and the receiver. Typically, adults can manage this issue easily by sending a quick retraction or simply laughing it off. Most teens, however, barely understand tone or inflection in written text as it is, making written communication far more dangerous as it is more easily misunderstood. This is how many of the fights or instances of bulling start – misunderstanding. This then leads to deliberate attacks on other students and that online violence gets brought into the schools.
So what can you do as an Educator or parent? The unfortunate thing is that there isn’t much you can do. Facebook is so deeply integrated into so many devices that restricting access is a tough task. Here is what is possible, however:
- Block access to Facebook on the school network.
- Allowing access to Facebook on a school computer is like adding insult to injury. Yes, students will still be able to access the website on their phones, but at least you’ve made it more difficult and made them aware that Facebook is a site they shouldn’t be visiting on school time.
- Note: make sure you block the http:// and the https:// version. They are independent of each other and most blocking software will see them as independent sites.
- Make sure you have a strong cell-phone policy.
- As technology advances, many cell phones are nearly as powerful as their computer counterparts. Take advantage of this in the classroom. For quick reference of a website, these devices can be great. But make sure students are aware that they are not to be used if proper permission has not been granted. Confiscate them if this becomes an issue.
- Almost all devices are capable of playing music. Allowing them to listen to iPods throughout the day invites them to use their cell-phone throughout the day. The simple excuse, “I was just changing the song,” seems harmless, but they are likely texting others. Limit use of the devices to times that are supervised and are academic.
- If your district does not block Facebook via the content management system, make sure you or your building tech monitors the computers.
- This certainly isn’t foolproof, but using software such as SMART Sync will help you keep track of who is doing what and implement restrictions at your classroom/building level.
- Talk to the students.
- You can implement as many policies as you want, but the students need to be taught what behaviors are allowed and what behaviors are not. It’s not like you creating a policy automatically notifies all the students and their parents. Make sure you take time to educate the students regarding the rules and expectations AND WHY these rules are in place.
- Consider setting parental controls on their devices and computers they have access to at home.
- Restrict internet time and sites in which they have access (Facebook).
- Get your kids Facebook username and password.
- Your child knowing that you could look at what they are saying (or what others are saying) at any moment could dramatically filter their use of the website.
- Also, CHECK their account regularly. I am all for trusting people before they give me a reason not to, but when Facebook is concerned it is not just your kid – it is your kid and everyone they associate with.