Benjamin Franklin Middle School Chief Says Students Should Be Cut Off From Facebook, Text Messaging

Anthony Orsini, the principal at Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Ridgewood, NJ, sent out an e-mail Wednesday morning asking parents to help him get all of his students off social networks and keep careful track of their text messages. (Read Story)

Below is a copy of Orsini's entire unedited e-mail:

Dear BF Community,

In 2002 when I arrived in Ridgewood Facebook did not exist, Youtube did not exist, and MySpace was barely in existence. Formspring (one of the newest internet scourges, a site meant simply to post cruel things about people anonymously) wasn't even in someone's mind.

In 2010 social networking sites have now become commonplace, and technology use by students is beyond prevalent.

It is time for every single member of the BF Community to take a stand!

There is absolutely no reason for any middle school student to be a part of a social networking site!

Let me repeat that - there is absolutely, positively no reason for any middle school student to be a part of a social networking site! None.

5 of the last 8 parents who we have informed that their child was posting inappropriate things on Facebook said their child did not have an account. Every single one of the students had an account.

3 Students yesterday told a guidance counselor that their parents told them to close their accounts when the parents learned they had an account. All three students told their parents it was closed. All three students still had an account after telling their parents it was closed.

Most students are part of more than one social networking site.

Please do the following: sit down with your child (and they are just children still) and tell them that they are not allowed to be a member of any social networking site. Today!

Let them know that you will at some point every week be checking their text messages online! You have the ability to do this through your cell phone provider.

Let them know that you will be installing Parental Control Software so you can tell every place they have visited online, and everything they have instant messaged or written to a friend. Don't install it behind their back, but install it!

Over 90% of all homework does not require the internet, or even a computer. Do not allow them to have a computer in their room, there is no need.

Know that they can text others even if their phone doesn't have texting capability, either through the computer or through their Ipod touch.

Have a central "docking station" preferably in your bedroom, where all electronics in the home get charged each night, especially anything with a cell or wifi capability (Remember when you were in high school and you would sneak the phone into your bedroom at midnight to talk to you girlfriend or boyfriend all night - now imagine what they can do with the technology in their rooms).

If your son or daughter is attacked through one of these sites or through texting - immediately go to the police! Insist that they investigate every situation. Also, contact the site and report the attack to the site - they have an obligation to suspend accounts or they are liable for what is written.

We as a school can offer guidance and try to build up any student who has been injured by the social networking scourge, but please insist the authorities get involved.

For online gaming, do not allow them to have the interactive communication devices. If they want to play Call of Duty online with someone from Seattle, fine, they don't need to talk to the person.

The threat to your son or daughter from online adult predators is insignificant compared to the damage that children at this age constantly and repeatedly do to one another through social networking sites or through text and picture messaging.

It is not hyperbole for me to write that the pain caused by social networking sites is beyond significant - it is psychologically detrimental and we will find out it will have significant long term effects, as well as all the horrible social effects it already creates.

I will be more than happy to take the blame off you as a parent if it is too difficult to have the students close their accounts, but it is time they all get closed and the texts always get checked.

I want to be clear, this email is not anti-technology, and we will continue to teach responsible technology practices to students. They are simply not psychologically ready for the damage that one mean person online can cause, and I don't want any of our students to go through the unnecessary pain that too many of them have already experienced.

Some people advocate that the parents and the school should teach responsible social networking to students because these sites are part of the world in which we live.

I disagree, it is not worth the risk to your child to allow them the independence at this age to manage these sites on their own, not because they are not good kids or responsible, but because you cannot control the poor actions of anonymous others.

Learn as a family about cybersafety together at for your own knowledge. It is a great site. But then do everything I asked in this email - because there really is no reason a child needs to have one of these accounts.

Please take action in your on home today.

Anthony Orsini
Principal, BFMS



What do you think? Is this a big deal over nothing?

Tags: ban, facebook

Views: 250

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Replies to This Discussion

This is ridiculous. There is tons of research out there showing that, used appropriately, students can learn so much more and better using these technologies. Not to mention the research showing that technology has actually changed the way students learn.
Advocating that parents talk to their children is a good idea. Pretending that parents can simply block their children from interacting with the real world is ahistorical and developmentally inappropriate.
Hey Jack and Katy,I have to disagree with Katy on this one.....from my own personal experience as a father. I am being serious.

I have 3 grown children, 2 sons and one daughter. I had the biggest problem with the boys playing "WarCraft" and another team hostage rescue game, whose name I do not recall. (my son just called me, it was called "Counter Strike"

The problem arose when the boys would communicate with strangers that were team members. At times I would hear one of them yelling or crying. It was always due to some anonymous XXXXXX making fun of him and ridiculing him to the other members. My boys thought they were friends, but they were not. I would explain to them that a coward hides behind a screen name, and a man talks face to face, but it is hard to get through to them. I grew up in a different time. Conflicts were settled there and now, sometimes verbally, sometimes after a scuffle or outright fistfight. But they were settled, with no hard feelings the next day.
Oh Yeah! We had bullies in school too. But we also made friends, guys that would cover your back.
One day I was cornered by 3 guys from a different neighborhood. I was in for it. A friend of mine, Frankie Carmello, rode his bike into the group and beat up two of the guys while the other ran off. Now that's a friend.

I recently had an argument on line, I'll skip the details, but my (ScreenNamed) advisary was rude and insulting. I sent him my name, address and phone number and offered to meet him anywhere anytime for a face to face.
He never reponded.... Just another xxxxxx on the internet. It is for this reason that I will never participate in an anonymous blog. If you cannot identify yourself, then your words are meaningless.

Should a parent protect their child from this social ridicule? Yes! I believe that a parent should make every effort to protect their child from unnecessary cruelty. They'll learn soon enough that a lot of people are selfish and condescending asses.
It will not impair their development. So, I agree with Anthony Orsini, he's a nice guy, I met him this past year.

200 million people grew up fine without facebook or any other web based social networking system. I feel bad for the younger 100 million, they'll never know what it is like to have a friend like Frankie Carmello.

Post Script on Frankie Carmello:
I met him one night at a bar, we were 20 or so then...He asked me for money and of course I gave him a twenty.
That night he over dosed on Herion.....I know that I should not blame myself, but I have really never forgiven myself. If I knew he was a junkie, I wouldn't have given him a dime.
I agree that protections need to be in place -- but that's why sites like Edmodo are so great. Social networking can work really well in the classroom, if it's done correctly.

In my career, I've worked mainly with lower-income students whose parents aren't up-to-date on social networking. (Many of the parents have never even been online.) As such, I had 4th-grade students with inappropriate MySpace profiles. I saw it as my job to educate these kids about proper Internet etiquette and safety. As teachers, I think this is something we need to integrate into our curriculum. But banning it and pretending it doesn't exist isn't going to help anyone.
Dear Katy,

As usual, you make good sense,

It is always a can we get some info to Tony Orsisni?

Just to put the story in context, Ridgewood, NJ would be one of the wealthiest areas in the U.S.. Parents in this school, SHOULD be informed, fairly tech savvy, and involved. Not that it really matters, but I think the interesting thing is that parents and school admins in ALL kinds of communities are sadly misinformed about social networking and other online activities. Sensationalist stories fueled by ratings driven media, politicians looking for a quick hit, and organizations looking to make a buck off fear of online predators have inflamed things to the point where real facts and common sense seem like a namby-pamby response.

And in all kinds of communities, simplistic messages of "just say no" don't work and make it less likely that students, parents, teachers, school leaders, and the community will have an intelligent conversation about the subject.
Perhaps someone in the district can pass on the following research:

Creating and Connecting: Research and guidelines on social - and educational - networking from the National School Boards Association actually provides a section with recommendations for school boards, including, "Safety policies remain important, as does teaching students about online safety and responsible online expression — but students may learn these lessons better while they’re actually using social networking tools."

Teens and Social Networking in School and Public Libraries by the Young Adult Library Services Association includes a section on how social networking can improve learning, as well info on educating the community about social networking. Here's a quote: "By integrating social networking technologies into educational environments, teens have the opportunity to learn from adults how to be safe and smart when participating in online social networks. They also learn a valuable life skill, as these social networking technologies are tools for communication that are widely used in colleges and in the workplace."
Hello Community!

I do feel that the site administrator has some valid points. Reading his email and seeing the video, it seems like he is dealing with some issues that must be troubling him as the appointed education leader of that community. I just think that he is missing a big opportunity to prepare the students for an online world he did not grow up in and have to successfully navigate as a middle school student.

Back in the days (Here we go...) we dealt with people face to face. We named called faced to face ( or across the room if you were smart). We fought after school at 3:00 pm. We live in a face to face environment. This is not that world. The world that our kids live in. It is so different (I know this is obvious). But they have the same issues. They just work them out online (messy or not).

The real question here is instead of pushing web 2.0 technology, what are we doing to prepare students to deal with information (good or bad) on the internet? This is not a Web 2.0 question. This is an information literacy question. This is a social question. This is a safety question. But most of all, this is a relationship question (I will get off my soapbox. But I tell you it felt good!).

I feel that education is missing an opportunity to connect with students when we focus on the "tool" and not the purpose of the "tool".

That's my 2¢. Now where's my change!

Antwon Lincoln
Hey Antwon,

Good Points! It is fun to be on that soapbox!

I wish that I had an answer or advice for our teachers and students.....My tools were a little different, they don;t apply.....But how does one provide the princpals of honor and integrity in a Web 2.0 world?

John J Caprice
As a middle school teacher, full-fledged techie and lover of all things digital I absolutely, 100% agree with this principal.

It is a terrible idea to give any kid anywhere a forum where they can experiment without consequences and that is exactly what social networking does. It encourages kids to lie, boast, and cut others down. Facebook, Twitter and the like go to the length to quantify your "popularity" in a number of ways. A mature mind can (sometimes) handle this but middle schoolers are absolutely not ready to do so.

The argument that telling kids "no" is avoiding reality is akin to telling kids they might as well go light up, sneak into movies and get drunk on the weekends because hey, it happens. There are things kids aren't ready to handle and the blurred line between the virtual world and the real world is one of them. They can't think in the abstract, we know that already.

Finally, let's be honest here. This principal isn't talking about edmodo or a classroom blog. He's right. I see absolutely no reason for a middle school student to be part of an unregulated social network like Facebook. None. You can get all the benefits of online collaboration through email, wikis, etc. Well-controlled environments that, at the very least, can function like training wheels. As middle schoolers though, lock it down!
I agree -- middle schoolers shouldn't be using unmonitored social networking sites like Facebook. (That's why Facebook and Ning have minimum age requirements, and Facebook actually does a pretty good job of enforcing them.)

However, the principal here doesn't condemn unmonitored social networking sites. He bans all social networking sites. In addition, to combat the issues, he encourages parents to take computers out of kids' rooms and monitor their every move online.

Aside from being extremely difficult to monitor your kids' every move online, this really does nothing to fix the problem. It just postpones it. What happens when these kids get to high school, where social networking sites aren't banned, and still do the same hateful stuff?

In my opinion, the solution isn't to ban social networking (and, thus, make it even cooler). The solution is to teach kids appropriate web etiquette and safety. If this middle school started a school-wide Edmodo community, they could teach kids these skills in a safe place. Not to mention that, by giving kids a sanctioned social networking site, they're less likely to go out and seek an unmonitored one.

When it comes to the Internet, we need to give kids the tools to make good choices because, in the end, they're going to make these choices for themselves. We won't always be there to look over their shoulders and tell them what the right thing is.

You hit the nail on the head here. Banning and tracking is treating the symptom and not the cause. We need to model and educate about proper netiquette as we would any other learning skill or life skill. The issues here are the bullying and the lack of social justice. This needs to be addressed.

@kev: you say "The argument that telling kids "no" is avoiding reality is akin to telling kids they might as well go light up, sneak into movies and get drunk on the weekends because hey, it happens." I don't think anyone is advocating condoning the behaviour. It is just accepting that, for at least some (most?) students this will be an unfortunate rite of passage. The same way we stress responsible drinking or other social responsibilities, we need to stress online responsible behaviour in a web2.0 world.




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