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Social Networks Are Good/Bad for Friendship and Cyberbullying

Now that all students and most teachers are on Summer break, it's a good time to make some reflexions on what's going on with the so mentioned social networks, particularly Facebook and MySpace. Forget about photo or music networks.

Society cannot stand and watch what's happening in their neighborhoods when students are being assaulted or bullied because of what they wrote in any of those online boards pertaining to either Facebook or MySpace. Officials are taking steps, but it's necessary the family intervention, which by the way it's difficult, now that the average family income is too low and parents have to spent more hours working to take food home.

I've heard some are commanding: "Shut down the computer!". But that is not a practical solution. I've also witnessed the prohibition of be involved in social networks while at home. Wrong step. Why all these practices are wrongly addressed?
Michelle Davis has the answer: Students are using social-networking sites more and more Despite the fact that most schools and families block access to such sites, 9- to 17-year-old spend about nine hours a week in the Internet, according to a 2007 study by the NSBA -Alexandria (National School Boards Association). The study found that 96 percent of those with online access had used social-networking technology—including text messaging—and 81 percent said they had visited a social-networking Web site at least once within the three months before the study of among 1200 students, was conducted. See pdf study report here.

With such high percentage, it shows clearly that neither officials, nor parents, can just block by verbal decisions the access to these social sites. We cannot afford a new incident like Megan Meier case, but at the same time we all have to be prepared to not to get way off as the incident at Canadian Ryerson University.

"To recap what happened: 16-year-old Megan Meier of suburban St. Louis thought she was befriending a local boy over MySpace. They formed an online friendship and corresponded frequently. As it turned out, the boy was actually a fake MySpace account created by a local woman named Lori Drew and a friend of hers, to see what they could learn about Meier’s friendship with her daughter. Eventually, they used the account to break up the online relationship, dismissing Meier in an extremely cruel way. Soon afterwards, Meier hanged herself." -Source: Andy Carvin

In the other case, "study groups may be a virtual trademark of the Ivory Tower – but a virtual study group has been slammed as cheating by Ryerson University. First-year student Chris Avenir is fighting charges of academic misconduct for helping run an online chemistry study group via Facebook last term, where 146 classmates swapped tips on homework questions that counted for 10 per cent of their mark." -Quoted by MGuhlin.

Students, teachers and parents have to make clear decisions and guidelines as how the behaviour of the younsgter will be carried out at school, at home and publicly at sites like the popular Facebook and MySpace. Keep educating students about online-safety matters and how to use sites such as those mentioned, responsibly. If you fellow teachers are using social-networking sites for such educational purposes, you should establish clear guidelines for how you intend to communicate with students via those sites. A good example for teachers, as MGuhlin likes to call it, is this Twitter post, 'encouraging more respectful and productive interaction between students by turning the class into a community.'

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