Home' Teacher : September 2009 Contents OUTSIDE THE SQUARE 61
Just when everyone was becoming comfortable with the pit-
falls of email and the internet along came social networking
sites such as MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to
keep schools in a constant state of flux and anxiety.
With many mainstream businesses and professionals now
using Facebook and Twitter for marketing and networking,
and with mature adults swelling the ranks of social network
users, young users may already see these media as passé as
they move to the next killer app, and never mind that 'killer
app' is probably passé as well, without us realising it.
Nevertheless school staff, but primarily teachers, are
increasingly being called to account for their online presence
and activity or are complaining of being victims of the misuse
of new technologies.
Anything that happens in the real world can and does hap-
pen in the virtual one. Vilification, bullying, fraud, identity
theft, gambling, exploitation, violence and junk mail compete
with information, enrichment, entertainment, e- commerce
and genuine communication. The victims and the perpetra-
tors are all combinations of younger and older, male and
female, straight and gay. The internet is an equal opportunity
It's important that we in the education community con-
centrate on the behaviours rather than whe re they occur, or
the technology by which they occur. Nuisance phone calls
to teachers in the middle of the night have been replaced by
nuisance postings on the web.
Today's communication technologies may make it easier,
or more anonymous to mistreat others, but the root cause lies
in the psyche not the internet. Simplistic banning of mobile
phones at school or blocking access to social networking sites
from school ser vers is going to be as effective as Prohibition
was at curbing alcohol consumption in the 1920s.
We haven't seen fit to ban book publishing because of Mein
Kampf. Nor do we consider banning cars because they may
be used in the commission of crimes. The reason we tolerate
the misuse of technologies is because of the greater good their
proper use provides to us.
One of the roles of the education system is to socialise
young people as effective functioning citizens. Along with
parents and many others in our society, educators help young
people to develop an appreciation of others, an understand-
ing of fair treatment and an expectation of consequences for
deviating from society's norms.
Inter-student cyberbullying has come to public attention
of late with horrendous examples of the systematic cruel vic-
timisation of young people by young people. Cyberspace is,
for some, a morality-free zone where the basest behaviours
are celebrated in the style of Lord of the Flies. To address
that, the Commonwealth government has launched a pilot
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