Get your kids off Facebook, principal tells parents

New Jersey school principal's e-mail reminds parents that their kids are "children still" and says there's no reason for a middle-school kid to be on a social-networking site.

I have barely come to terms with the idea that someone at a school thought it appropriate, wise, or even sane to spy on kids via Webcams on school-issued laptops. Has technology really taken over human thought processes quite so much?

So I temporarily lost the ability to spell my own name when I was confronted with the rather heartening news that a school principal has asked parents to get their kids away from Facebook and any other social-networking site.

I don't know whether the emission of a show called "Jersey Shore" has enlivened school principals to the idea of imminent social doom, but Anthony Orsini, principal of the Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Ridgewood, N.J., is clearly concerned about the children his school is accommodating.

For he wrote an e-mail to parents asking them to be socially responsible by getting their kids away from Facebook, MySpace, and every other heinously gratuitous social-networking site.

His words, obtained by WCBSTV, clearly are as heartfelt as they are eye-shattering: "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!"

Orsini asked parents to avail themselves of parental-control software. He asked them to check their kids' messages online. And he asked them to spank their children once a week with their laptops. Yes, of course I made the last one up, but if Orsini were in charge of the judicial system, one suspects that he would prefer the soft cell to the soft sell.

Hark at this from his e-mail: "There is absolutely, positively no reason for any middle-school student to be a part of a social-networking site! None."

Online gaming was not immune from Orsini's troubled tirade: "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."

You might imagine that Orsini is something of a nasty old Mussolini. That is why, for you, I have embedded footage of an interview he gave to a very nice man from ABC News. He seems ridiculously thoughtful and caring for a school principal.

He explained that he is just tired of all the meanness that social networking seems to encourage. He spoke of kids who might choose to start a Facebook group called "Dave is Ugly." "Once that pain happens , it's impossible to bring back," he told ABC News.

Orsini said he was dealing with these kinds of things every day. He offered that kids should not be allowed to have computers in their bedroom. They should be in a public place where everyone can see what is going on. He would even prefer parents not to allow kids to recharge that family laptop in their own bedrooms.

"Parents have been overwhelmingly thankful," Orsini told ABC News about his stance. Still, it will be interesting to see just how successful his attempt to bring sanity to his school of more than 700 kids will be. It is not easy to bring sanity to any middle-school student. So much is happening in their heads, hearts, and minds that it isn't surprising that their behavior is so combustible.

Older folks, on the other hand, have no such excuse. How many of them are themselves now burning away their time and intelligence on Facebook and MySpace? How many of them are even trying to befriend their own kids on these sites? I wonder, therefore, whether Orsini's best advice about social networking might actually be more appropriate for adults than for kids.

"It doesn't help them have more friends," he told ABC News.

 

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