A mum and her son go into a school and confront the Headteacher. “Aaron is being bullied on Facebook, what are you going to do about it?”
This is becoming an all too common occurrence, but one which raises a number of questions – Since when, and why has it become a school problem?
What are the parents doing about it? Is it really a Facebook problem?
Questions 1 and 2 I will save for another day, for now I want to have a look at question 3.
In my opinion Facebook (and its predecessors) is a fantastic leap forward in the use of technology to make life simpler and more enjoyable. This is what technology is supposed to do as well as to be more productive, more efficient, work collaboratively etc. The same could be said of Twitter, Tumblr, Google+ and others, although perhaps not to the extent of Facebook.
But Facebook comes with a few problems, and I’m sure we can all think of a few – paedophile activity, bullying, defamation, slander to name a few. It was only 2 years ago that Keeley Houghton was jailed for bullying on Facebook, and only 2 months ago that a man from Reading was convicted for trolling. He had posted a string of insults on the Facebook page of a young girl who had committed suicide after being bullied. These types of incidents are despicable, but thankfully in the minority. But, more and more Facebook is being used as the medium of choice for inappropriate activity due mainly to its popularity and ease of setting up accounts with false details. The choice of whether the positives outweigh the negatives can be difficult for people who blame the technology because they don’t know any better.
It is common for people to blame the technology, but this is rarely justified. What happens in the virtual world isn’t any different to what happens in the real world, it is just applied differently.
So, back to my original question, is it a Facebook problem? No, it isn’t (in my opinion). It is a behaviour management issue, by the parents, by the school and by the children (whether over 13 or not) who are using it. Regrettably there will always be people who delight in making others lives a misery, arguably the technology makes this easier. The only way to combat this is through awareness, training and education.