29 April 2010

Anthony Orsini, Please Shut Up

Anthony Orsini, principal of Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Ridgewood, New Jersey: Please shut up.

I'm not being rude. I'm just asking that you taste your own medicine. That you stop communicating in your preferred way. Stop talking, stop writing, stop reading, stop all those conversations you have in the school corridors, at restaurants, on the phone, at the market.

And remember, we'll be watching:
"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!" Orsini wrote in a widely circulated email to his student's parents. 

"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!"
OK, easy target. This guy is pretty crazy, and pretty determined to make kids miserable and break down all trust between parents and adolescents, but he is also part of a wide misunderstanding of humanity and human communications which is really dangerous.

University of Maryland researchers were widely reported to have found human communication addictive. That's not really what the study indicated, but it is what was reported, finding its way into the most recent of the monthly New York Times article about trying to break students of the awful habit of communicating with each other, and taking in information about the world.

None of this surprising. People were horrified when teenagers began talking on the phone in the 1950s, and they flipped out when the phone moved from the front hall of the home to kids' bedrooms.

Of course they didn't like kids hanging out on the corner, or at the drive-in, or cruising down the Main Street either - often passing laws against these dangerous behaviours.

I've tried to say, many times, that we as humans are tool users, specifically communication tool users, and that texting, social media, etc., are nothing "new" or "different" conceptually. Socrates was, after all, right. Literacy would interfere with face to face human communication, it would "dehumanize" knowledge. But Socrates was wrong. Literacy did not destroy human learning. Neither will any form of communication. Yes, there may be etiquette issues, but that's a matter for negotiation (and, is usually a question of power relationships, not rudeness).

Anthony Orsini probably doesn't know enough about social media, or children, to understand any of this. Like many, he is afraid. He is terrified that the kids in his charge know more than he does, that they can do things he cannot do, that they are talking about him behind his back. He is afraid that "these kids" are not exactly like him, so maybe, his skills and capabilities don't matter much anymore. He is terrified of becoming obsolete.

I'm not here to minimize fear. It is one incredibly powerful emotion, and it often trumps reason. But I am here to say to all adults who interact with kids - if you want them to "go without" their preferred communication tools, strategies, and methods - that you better be prepared to do the same. Kids give up facebook? You give up your books, newspapers, and NPR. Kids give up texting? You give up talking.

See how it feels.

Then sit down with those kids - or text them - and discuss what communication means.

- Ira Socol


Mike Moran said...

I am ina weird position, here. I am an alleged social media expert, but Tony Orsini is actually my son's middle school principal. He is a good guy and cares about kids. But as you point out, he's wrong. I pointed it n on my blog, too: http://bit.ly/aQezwv

Anonymous said...

You people are probably helicopter parents or DINKS so what the hell do you know about the problems of teaching children every day. Nothing. That's what.

If you spend any time on a school campus, you can see groups of idiot girls checking their text messages in unison like a bunch of mynah birds. What the hell is this. They are walking with three friends, checking to see if they have any texts from other friends? Like it's more important to read text messages from other friends than it is to talk to the friend standing next to them. What a bunch of narcissistic, pathetic, emotionally immature dolts. This goes on all day.

So shut up. Go to hell with your stinky social networking. Turn off your fucking mobile phone when other people are around. And one more thing, leave this principle alone. He's the only person who apparently has a brain left.

Mike Moran said...

I'm sorry you feel that way, anonymous, but you do realize that you are using social media to make your comment, right? And you are exemplifying the worst behavior that I hope our students are not emulating, making nasty anonymous comments instaed of identifying who you are and being civil when you disagree.

I know Tony Orsini and I like him. he's a good man and he is doing what he thinks is right. But so am I. And I can do it out in the open without losing my temper. I hope you'll learn to do the same and teach that to your students.

Anonymous said...

I'll tell you what Socrates said. He said "How many things are there which I do not need". Ponder that, goofball.

Anonymous. Anonymous. Anonymous. Anonymous. So WTF. Anonymous. Anonymous. Anonymous. Anonymous. So WTF. Anonymous. Anonymous. Anonymous. Anonymous. So WTF. Anonymous. Anonymous. Anonymous. Anonymous. So WTF. Anonymous. Anonymous. Anonymous. Anonymous. So WTF.

Jeff said...

I have to agree with anonymous here. And here's why. He/she hit it right on the head with helicopter parenting. But that's only ONE of the problems that causes Mr. Orsini to speak these words -- this SYMPTOM.

The problem is parents. Lack of standards in the lives of parents that are "too busy" to be actual parents and who put too much on school systems.

Mr. Orsini is simply calling for BASIC levels of discipline to be inserted into the lives of families -- families run by parents who have none. Parents who've never had any in many cases.

The problem extends beyond the mental health of parents (helicopter parents suffer from a lack of intimacy; hence, the over-compensation in their child's life). We all do. It gets worse.

I asked myself, why is there a disdain for discipline in our culture?

Here's my answer: There is simply no more authentic intimacy in daily life -- for all of us. Combine this with a belief system that diminishes the value of actual education ("we don't go to school to learn -- we go to school to get a job, make money and spend it").

Combine these now with the very "human" instinct to screw around all day long rather than focus-and-execute on something meaningful and goal-oriented. To occasionally sacrifice the "instant gratification machine" that we call life -- which is constantly being supported by the telephone, mobile devices, the Web, etc. What's the inspiration to look past playful, mindless eye and ear candy? There is none.

Now combine this with the cultural celebration of ignorance and the ability to pull a paycheck for... for... well, because we're all entitled to it.

We have become a nation that has, largely, forgotten how to control itself. Because we want it this way. God help our educators.

Wm Chamberlain said...

I'm confused, Anonymous. Your words tell us one thing, but your actions another. I prefer to quote Solomon over Socrates:

The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the heart of fools.
Proverbs 5:7

Anonymous said...

@ Mike Moran. When liberal jackasses like this blog poster mouth off in their typically liberal passive aggressive way, I like to reply to them using techniques which resonate within their modus operandi. If he would prefer US mail then he can post his address.

As far as the tone, when someone tells another to "shut up" (like this poster), they have picked a fight. So, I like to raise the stakes a little and reveal their hypocrisy by telling them to "fuck off". It's just a minor form of rhetoric which I've found to be quite effective in dealing with liars, frauds and sanctimonious bloggers.

As far as anonymity goes, Benjamin Franklin proved its effectiveness and constitutionality many generations ago.

Mike Moran said...

Hi Jeff,

I agree that we need discipline, but we need discipline how we use things, not outright bans that prevent us from learning how to use things. I totally understand why it would be easier if we as parents did not have to talk to our kids, teach our kids, and monitor our kids in their use of social media, just as we do with every other aspect of their lives, so they gradually learn to discipline themselves and don't need us anymore. And some things should be banned for middle school kids, but i don't think this is one of them.

Jeff said...

While the call-to-action in question is a little over the top, I honestly don't think that Anonymous nor Mr. Orsini are calling for people to stop using social media. They're calling for LIMITS to be imposed by the power brokers who seem unable to impose them -- parents.

BTW, I heard about this entire affair via Mike's tweet! :)

Anonymous said...

@Wm Chamberlain

Who cares who you prefer to quote, you self-impressed nerd.

I only quoted Socrates because the blog poster quoted Socrates.

Mike Moran said...


Tony is a good guy, but he is saying that no middle school student should be doing anything in social networking. That's where I disagree with him. I think he should help parents understand the dangers and teach their kids how to handle them, imposing limits, of course, when that is right for their kids. I just don't think it is a blanket answer. That is what I was trying to say in my original post: http://bit.ly/aQezwv

Anonymous said...

@ Mike Moran

Sir. If you are so put off by anonymous comments, then why are you reading an anonymous blog.

Do you have no shame? Or do you just utter any word pattern that enters your stream of consciousness.

Jeff said...

Anonymous... you keep fighting the good fight, brotha.

Mike... we agree. But in agreeing I think we're missing the point entirely: Our educators (the men and women who actually DO believe in and value a real education) are desperate. We may need to just disagree here in a friendly way. Because the answer here, in my opinion, is not to defend social media or anyone's right to use it... or society's benefits being squelched by those "banning" it.

The answer here is to do things that foster MORE active parenting skills among MORE parents. IMHO.

Mike Moran said...

That sounds right, Jeff. Maybe we are in violent agreement on this.

irasocol said...

Well, nothing could illustrate my point better than "anonymous"'s comments. Blind rage created by fear resulting in an inability to read or communicate. Quite sad actually. I usually don't allow profanity in my comments, since, students read this, but I think this is important for them to see.

First, of course, I always discourage anonymity unless the threat is legal or otherwise substantial. Which is why I sign my blogs, my Tweets, my comments everywhere, as a modelling tool. "Anonymous" can not read my name, I realize, nor investigate links, nor understand history, but he is really mad about immigration, about America changing, about the lack of respect for the things he has made himself good at - so, like an angry 12-year-old he curses and rants.

For all time people have wanted kids to be brought up to be exactly like the last generation. This strong commitment to social reproduction ensures that the power structure never changes, and that society seems safe. But it is that very belief system, from Socrates to Orsini, which really endangers us and our future.

- Ira Socol

Michelle said...

The problem with leaving social media out of the school has nothing to do with helicopter parents or children who will not be able to communicate face to face.

The problem is that it is a part of our world for which we need to be EDUCATED. Yes, it's a parent responsibility, but it's also a public education responsibility.

I want my students, as well as my own children, to understand how to use these tools constructively as well as how to navigate the world through social tools.

Yes, I know that there are hundreds of thousands of teenage boys and girls who don't know how to exist with having a cell phone in their hands to text the person standing 2 feet away. As an educator, that's one of my jobs to help them understand responsible use.

Banning tools and learning opportunities online ensure that our children will continue learning in isolation from the "sage on the stage," instead of WITH EACH OTHER.

Nice post, Ira. Thanks for providing an open forum for all opinions. Perhaps people who understand how to use social media responsibly can be a model to those who do not.

Steve Ransom said...

Kids don't typically engage in evil, hurtful, harmful, risky behaviors with books, newspapers, radio,...
The reality is that they DO with new social forms of media and communication.

No doubt, banning new and relevant cultural tools is not the solution at all, but more people (as Jeff writes) have to step up to the plate and help kids navigate these new spaces and understand themselves and others in them.

Too many kids have no positive, caring, active role models in their lives and teen angst has a way of even pushing away these folks if they do. There is no single or simple answer answer here. It is messy. But, WE MUST be willing to get messy, as we can't help kids while standing on the sidelines.

Jeff said...

I'd like to ask that you examine your need to pity Anonymous. I find his use of profanity to be far less than gratuitous. His level of consciousness about his use affords him some respect and consideration. To suggest that he's blind, full of rage and "an example" for you to look down at is to disregard his comments entirely. Which makes your comments about him an ad hominem attack.

That said, you close by suggesting that this is all about old farts not wanting anything to change -- and how this has always been the case over time. This too is to dumb down the conversation entirely in my humble opinion. But you are certainly entitled to your opinion.

Steve and Michelle... you offer a nice balance to the conversation in terms of a solution that we can all agree upon. But talk is cheap. I wish there was more to do. Of course, I don't live in this district but will be facing similar challenges w/ my 4 year old soon enough!

Wm Chamberlain said...


I disagree, Anonymous' use of profanity was gratuitous and downright lazy. Dropping an F bomb doesn't make him/her pithy or self-aware, it makes him/her immature.

The simple tone of Anonymous' rant takes away any consideration for his/her position because of that perceived immaturity.

Schools should not be in the business of parenting parents or children. We need to focus on education our students. Keeping them from technology that is being used outside of school is not the answer.

Steve Ransom said...

Jeff, I'm in the same boat as you with my two kids facing a very complicated world very shortly.

However, I couldn't disagree with your statement that "talk is cheap" more. Talk is all we have that precedes and motivates action. We need to talk more and more and more until we begin to take action... and then keep talking - to each other, and certainly with (not at) the kids that this matters to immensely.

Letting the media and designated figureheads talk for us is hugely problematic.

irasocol said...


I am not sure why "Anonymous" - or Orsini - gets to be so judgmental on communication standards, but I'm not allowed to "read into" the text posted here. This is not "demanded" or "invited" or even reciprocal conversation, but someone going out of their way to make political points about "liberals" - all while disregarding general norms of behaviour.

Anyway, 2 straight years of studying human communication transitions have certainly led me to conclude that this behaviour, which is fully repetitive and predictable, is about fear and anger, and social reproduction. I can find the very same sentiments about the printed book, about newspapers, about chalkboards, about film, paperback books, radio, television. The technology or the changing standards are not at issue, but the fear is.

For, simply put, these communication revolutions occur at moments of societal upheaval. Think The Reformation, the Second Industrial Revolution, The Great War, etc. Times when the lives of those who have built "middle" status in the "old system" seem most precarious.

So, in my global view, based on my research, this is a fear response. Either "well intended" (Orsini) or out-of-control and profane ("Anonymous").

- Ira Socol

Jeff said...

Your point is well taken. Thanks for asking me to think about it for a moment.

While I agree that schools should not be in the business of educating parents (something that I'd not really thought about until you said it!)... I'll ask that you consider that some of us can look past profanity. Some of us find it to be a sign of other things -- even maturity. One can be articulate, passionate and informed (worth listening to) and use profanity judiciously. Example: Geroge Carlin. Now, of course, in his later years he was told that he was a pointless, bitter old man who'd get his point across better if he stopped the F-bombs.

I disagree. I believe he'd have faded into the ether had he not used profanity so eloquently.

I think I love you, Anonymous ;)

Jeff said...

Wow. I truly cannot argue with you and appreciate everything you just laid out for us to digest.

I also took the time to scroll all the way to top and look at the first couple of posts by Ononymous. You're actually quite rite. There's more venom here than anything else and your interpretation seems fitting in retrospect.

irasocol said...


OK on the profanity, as long as you allow it in your classrooms, school halls, etc. I love Carlin, and I cursed a lot as a teen. It was when I was a NYC Cop that I discovered that calling someone a "motherf***er" was not the best way to calm a situation down or to begin a rational conversation.

But we all have our preferences.

- Ira Socol

irasocol said...


We're cross-posting, but thanks. I am listening, watching. There's a big difference between "let's figure this out," and "I'm angry and I want to ban behaviours." One of the reasons my students are all asked to keep their phones on their desks during classes is so that we can learn and consider etiquette. We try to model an appropriate future. That's not always easy, but I think it is important.

- Ira Socol

Anonymous said...

Mr. Orsini is my principal and in a way, I agree with him. I do have a facebook and I've seen small amounts of bullying going on.l I don't think that we should have to delete our accounts (most of us are old enough to use it!) but that we should be monitored. My parents attached my e-mail account to theirs so that when ever something was sent to me or if I sent it out, they would see it. I do not think Mr. Orsini should shut up! He's right. These social netwrorking sites can be dangerous, just not if you use them correctly.

Anonie said...

I'm a parent at Orsini's middle school and I can tell you -- he's not afraid that kids know more than him or whatever else your theory was...he's afraid that some kid is going to commit suicide or another violent act. He's afraid that a kid is going to be harmed emotionally and so badly that she never really recovers. He has been called-on by parents who are beside themselves with their children being targeted and nowhere to turn, no easy way to get "authorities" involved (he's the closest they have to an authority who will take it on). And I'm certain that he's afraid for how all this is impacting his students' learning.

Personally, I think those are worthy things to be afraid of and I do not blame him for reacting. His tone was guaranteed to rile some up, but for god's sake people, give the guy some help! What else would you have him do, realistically, there all alone on the front line, with another kid crying in his office and unable to attend class?

Wm Chamberlain said...

Anonie, I believe that calling the police is the proper thing to do. They are the appropriate authorities for this behavior, not the school.

irasocol said...


Most bullying happens verbally. Do we ban speech in school? Much happens on busses, and in team sport locker rooms, but we ban neither of those. In New York recently a huge bullying situation was based in lists written on paper. Yet paper is not banned.

So, one setting is being singled out because the other settings are valued by the principal. That seems wrong to me, but thank you for coming here and commenting.

-Ira Socol

Anonymous said...

I honestly think what Mr. Orsini is doing, is right. He is starting what I think could be a new movement to end all the terrible situations associated with the media and the Internet.
Only a few years ago I was a student at Benjamin Franklin Middle School, and I definitely had my fair share of the garbage many teens face with the social media.. I'm not sure if it is as bad in other places as it is here in Ridgewood, but BF was definitely known for having major cyber-bullying problems and "mean girls". Most of this did originate from Facebook, Myspace, texting, and even written in our yearbooks.
Nobody is asking to take away the cell phones and ban Facebook, it's called keeping on the same page.
Pretty sure if parents took a moment to look and see what their child was doing (either by setting parental controls, demanding to see what they are doing, or take a look through their texts) they may not be happy with what they find. Quite possibly, the rates of cyberbulling, sexting etc.. could decrease if the parents were encouraged to..PARENT. Obviously there are some parents out there, including my own, who can easily take note of what their child is doing online and possibly prevent big mistakes from being made. I do believe that many of the parents are to blame for being so foolishly naive to think "No, my child wouldn't do that." I can't even tell you how many times my parents have said "Oh that didn't happen when I was a child" but parents need to realize, NOW it's happening, maybe even to your child. Yes, at first I found it annoying that my parents checked in with my personal life, but now that I look back on it, I couldn't be happier.

Ira, when the heck you were you a kid last? You must be living in the old days because now it's not like that at all. VERBALLY ABUSING? Please, we all use our technological tools as a cover up because nobody has the guts to say it in person. Take it from me, I'm a teenager.

irasocol said...

Anonymous (3),

Been a while since I was a teenager, but I walk school halls all the time. I admit I'm not in New Jersey, but here in the Midwest we've had huge bullying incidents around sports teams, every year. We've had massive on-the-bus problems every year. The NY case I just talked about was this fall. This isn't the "old days."

I am certainly not suggesting we do nothing. The reason I bring these social media systems into my classrooms, and the reasons many teachers do, is to teach appropriate use, to, in part, monitor, to bring this "backchannel" forward into the light of day.

To me this is a great deal like what happened in the 1980s. Before that kids hung out on corners, drank in bars. Their behaviours and misbehaviours were in public places, and they learned from the adults around them. The Reagan-era chased teens deep into hidden places, where behaviours became much more out-of-control, and out-of-site. Drug and alcohol use actually soared, so did bullying.

We don't deal with misbehaviour by hiding it or outlawing it. History shows that never works. We solve problems through engagement, which is the opposite of the principal's approach.

- Ira Socol

Jeff said...

"I do believe that many of the parents are to blame for being so foolishly naive to think "No, my child wouldn't do that."

Sadly, this isn't the case. It's worse. Parents are in denial. They see their kids taking on a LOT (if not all) of their own bad habits. They cannot cope so they live their live on Planet Denial.

I see it all the time, everywhere.

We seem to be agreeing -- active parenting is lacking. It's an epidemic. Not "bad" parenting. Absent parenting. And that includes things like active denial and poor judgment.

codyjbennett said...

Fantastic dialog.

I tend to find myself in a more conservative place and, due to my own filter, I felt that the first anonymous post was a bit abrasive but it also gave the opportunity to articulate more depth to the ongoing commentary. I can appreciate that some folks like George Carlin, but I (perhaps due to my immaturity, according to some), am driven away by the "choice" language.

The mention that active and involved parenting is lacking remains observable in my sphere. I'm in my late 20's and while I don't yet have children of my own, I can only imagine the ongoing challenge as a parent to keep up with the societal/technological changes enough to be on the bleeding edge of the shifts so that you can be supportive and engaged with your children. Heck, my peers have immensely strong reactions to recent changing policies (such as the recent facebook information sharing change) as to remind me of Chicken Little and her report that the sky is falling.

In my line of work (front line IT Support at a university) I find much of my time spent in coaching people (older and younger) in how to maximize technology for their academic gain. Many push back hard, a few stumble willingly into the unknown and then call with their bruises of experience.

So, shifting gears a bit, rather than rallying about what the problem is (change, fear, etc.,) I'd like to see more conversation about what can be done to increase skills of the youth, parents or school administrators - those folks "in the trenches".

I know that in my upbringing, I found additional mentors through Big Brothers Big Sisters, but not everyone is aware of such resources (or has access, I suppose). I have seen some religious groups play a role, but can be limited in the scope of their involvement (one day a week, "spiritual" vs "temporal" involvement, etc).

Maybe this could be a good leading question for the conversation: Anon(s), Ira, Jeff, and others, how have you made an effort to increase your capacity to successfully coach others through the changing landscape of our world today when we are similarly experiencing it and learning ourselves?

Thanks again for the great dialog.

Jeff said...

Hi, Cody.

I can only imagine the ongoing challenge as a parent to keep up with the societal/technological changes enough to be on the bleeding edge of the shifts so that you can be supportive and engaged with your children.

I say, stop imagining the excuse. This is a convenient excuse for parents. Please don't give them any more.

Your call for coaching around the skill development end-goal is SPOT ON.

So what have we all done lately to foster that? And what can schools do?

Of course, you mention the hurdles. Walls. And they certainly exist. But are there other options? Entrepreneurial? Like why wouldn't I bypass the university I work for (as a prof) and stop waiting for them to get off the dime -- and produce MY OWN program with this goal in mind?


Anonymous said...

these are CHILDREN! not grown adults with decades of relationships and social experience.
the fact is that children need guidance with all forms of social interaction. children need to be monitored and reassessed continually... balance, limits, privileges and responsibilities. limit and monitor their texts and computer networking. create a balance of technology and hands on face time. assess the effects and change the game plan when needed.
back in the old days, they called it responsible PARENTING!

Anonymous said...

btw, mr moran et all:
ANONYMOUS IS A GROWN UP... not a middle school CHILD....

irasocol said...

Ahhh, why does anonymity cause people to YELL and curse? Perhaps we are seeing the modelling which has created the toxic school environment at Benjamin Franklin Middle School. After all, if the community's adults even sometimes feel comfortable acting badly online while hiding their identities, we'd surely expect their children to do the same.

Which brings us to Cody's questions.

It is clear from the statements made by community members - young and old - that there is something very, very wrong in Ridgewood, NJ and at this Middle School. For me, in my research and that of others, http://speedchange.blogspot.com/2009/05/adult-communities-and-school-bullies.html, communities with severe bullying problems, and schools with severe bullying problems, have a society which encourages this. As this University of Toronto study http://psycserver.psyc.queensu.ca/craigw/Pepler_Craig_Ziegler_Charach_1993.pdf found, schools actually can make bullying worse through the social hierarchies embraced by the school.

So, what can we do? As I said in my original post, we can begin by communicating with our kids about communication. And as I've said in the comments, and other school administrators have said, http://drop.io/xvl1qez, we can bring these forms of social media in to the classroom, and teach with them and about them.

But perhaps we need to look deeper. What are the hallways at this school like between classes? How much "passing time" is allotted? Are their competitive sports teams (with cuts)? Are there cheerleaders? How are lunch periods structured? Is there an honor roll? Do students wear uniforms? Where are teachers when students are in the corridors, at lunch, waiting for the bus? Is there any evidence that discipline in school correlates to the wealth and/or power of a student's parents? How is the chess club celebrated?

Adjusting these kinds of things begins to create a real impact on bullying cultures. Ignoring these issues while banning social networking, spying on students, or insisting that homework has no actual value (if it needs no resources, it has no value), are not likely to impact anything.

- Ira Socol

Jeff said...

You are on fire. Many thanks for these thoughts. Indeed, the questions you pose are more than real, legitimate or important. They're a call to action for educations.

They're WORK.

And that's my point -- my realization after reading your thoughts.

We're very much a quick-fix society and this "ban it" seems to be just that -- another pill. Another instant gratification "feel good" that really amounts to nothing.

And that extends to the man or woman who issued the prescription. Do you want to go to your grave having actually accomplished something? If so, the action list is right here -- in Ira's list of questions.

Spot on, Ira. But let's not belittle Mr. Orsini. Let's remember that this man is, most likely, on Ira's team. Most educators probably are. They're certainly not in it for the big paycheck or the social notoriety (although they SHOULD be held in higher regard by our society).

He's out of ideas and surrounded by parents who are, for the most part, not willing to participate -- REALLY participate in their child's education AND education system.

Michelle said...

To address "talk is cheap"- you're absolutely correct, unless that talk is followed by action.

The actions that I have personally taken:

1) I teach my own children (ages 16-21) how to use social media responsibly. We started this BEFORE they starting using any social media tools, including texting on their phones. We had graduated levels of access, with the older children provided more opportunity for responsibility than the younger children. When they broke rules or abused social media, there were consequences. As they have gotten older, I believe they are more responsible. We still have some fierce conversations about what they post, how they want the world to perceive them, etc. And yes, I know not all parents know enough about social media to do this... which leads me to...

2) I offer presentations to schools, community groups, businesses, and parents to help them learn how to talk to kids about responsible use. The number one recommendation: become social media users yourselves. You cannot make appropriate rules about tools you do not use (key word: appropriate).

That is action. If more school districts took on the responsibility of helping parents AND kids learn about ethical online behaviors, we wouldn't have so many misconceptions about what social media IS and ISN'T.

Andy H said...

Schools have a unique opportunity in this day and age, which is to lead and provide the electronic commons....social playground, if you will. They have a commmunity, and they can enroll that community in a closed social networking system and easily monitor and model, and bring kids on board with responsible, respectful conversation - both academic and recreational, and provide a safe place like we normally do in the course of the school day within our walls.
This doesn't mean everyone will behave nicely, but in fact, the people that misbehave are more easily identified on line....if you create and monitor the system. There are a number of them out there, and they're not real expensive. They can facilitate learning and classroom activities, as well as clubs and friendly conversation. It does mean moving forward and engaging the system, rather than prohibiting it, and watching kids run to MySpace.

Anon V said...

This Socol guy just made a typical inflamatory post to drive traffic to his site. In other words, he cyber bullied Mr. Orsini for his own benefit.

irasocol said...

Anon V (Richmond, VA),

It's always possible. Orsini bullies his students to get himself on television, I counter-bully him to get traffic to my site. All conversation is self-serving. Of course, Orsini and I have the guts to sign our names.

- Ira Socol

David Truss said...

Here is my 'two-dimes-worth':
The fact is that Mr. Orsini is, in a limited way, 'right'. That's why misguided, (yes that's my opinion), parents like what they see in his message... but his approach is 'wrong'.

Parents should know what their kids are doing online... just like they need to know what they are doing when they go out at night, or for younger kids, what they are up to on the playground: http://pairadimes.davidtruss.com/facing-facebook/ (see the cartoon).
...Parents need to know, they just don't need to do it by banning and controlling and filtering.

I have to laugh at the return of Anonymous (1) with the comment:
btw, mr moran et all:
ANONYMOUS IS A GROWN UP... not a middle school CHILD....

Why do I find this funny? Because that 'jab' shows the need to come back to the conversation and 'defend' themselves... which is exactly the trap students get into, and why they get trapped in online bullying situations.... they can't leave it behind, because "What if I miss something?", "What are they saying now?", "If I don't say something mean too, then maybe I'll get picked on next."... and if Anonymous was indeed a kid, you can bet he/she would be doing this without adult supervision.

(Does my finding humour in this make me a bully now?)

[End of part 1]

David Truss said...

[Start of part 2]

As I stated in the post I linked to above:
If we (educators and parents) don’t participate with students online, then we run the risk of having misguided or inexperienced friends, or worse yet bullies, becoming greater influences than us in their lives. Gordon Neufeld calls it ‘peer orientation’ in his book: Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers. This does not mean that we get ‘chummy’ with our students online… we are simply a significant adult presence, modeling appropriate behavior, and connecting with them in a meaningful, respectful way. The internet is no place for an unsupervised playground!

If we 'police' our kids we run the risk of them doing 'criminal' behavior behind our backs... and if they run into trouble then will they then run to the 'police'? I think not. But if we 'parent' our kids, and we are present with them and they run into trouble... well then they are far more likely to come to us for help (rather than misguided peers).

Since October, my oldest kid has wanted a MSN live.com account, she's 10, I said 'No'. She kept asking. I found out that literally all her friends have an account, it's where they socialize. Living in a foreign country, attending a school where everybody gets bussed in, kids don't do play dates that often like 'back home', and so they use MSN to connect. "Finally", a couple months ago I helped my daughter sign up. I signed up too and added her as a friend (she's still the only person I'm connected to there, she has almost 40 connections). She knows that I can (and have and will again) ask to see her conversations at any time. We agreed to those terms when she signed up. Is this the 'right' choice? Who knows? But it respects her ability to connect to peers in a way that peers are connecting these days, and also in a way that I can monitor it and make sure it is positive.

Technology isn't going away. Kids socializing isn't going away. Kids bullying each other isn't going away. If we don't talk about it... http://pairadimes.davidtruss.com/lets-talk-about-sex/ ...If we don't participate with, guide (and even monitor and put limits on) our kids, then we are asking for the very trouble we are trying to avoid, because banning, blocking, controlling and filtering only promises to force the issues 'our of sight'- No different that teen pregnancies, sexual & spousal abuse, bullying, underaged drinking and a whole host of issues that get hidden until they explode... These things are huge issues in many communities, no technology required, no technology to 'blame'... and all avoidable with more open means of communication, (a key element to 'social' networks!)

David said...


The comments to this post remind me why I never want to live in America! (and there is so much beautiful but what an underbelly!). God forbid that I'm a teenager there...

I'm a student of history and I would dare say that much written here is one step from the Weimar. Socrates above all suggested that we each day, "think of the good". Many here are not doing this - no ban, no denial of human freedom is any "good".


Andy Holleman said...

Seatbelts, then, are an evil??

Sean in 60 said...

To me, it is a matter of rudeness. I'm rude to family and friends all the time with my smart phone. Recently I've gotten better about it. To me, it's just like fast food for instance. It's easy, tastes good, and enjoyable. But, you need to have enough discipline not to have it every day, or it will be destructive. If you're by yourself and bored, do whatever you want. I do think there very much is a level of social etiquette that comes with new technology.

Sean in 60