Friday, March 23, 2007

Uh-huh. Good luck with that.

I know for a fact that there are teachers out there who have a myspace, so I find this little story rather amusing. Our friend Bill blogs about it here. Apparently we have a school (a private Catholic school in this particular case, though this could have happened just about anywhere) that is trying to keep its students from using MySpace on pain of suspension, or worse. The idea is that this will protect them from online predators.

I understand wanting to protect students, but this is absolutely unenforceable. People can post a MySpace account without publicly declaring their real names, where they live or where they work, or go to school. Granted, not many do this, and many people post too much information about themselves, but if these kids want to get around the school enforcers, they'll probably be able to, and I'm sure they already know it. The trouble with unenforceable rules is that they only serve to undermine the authority of the school administration in the eyes of the student body, and possibly even among parents, by making administrators appear impotent. Such policies do no favors for the teaching staff either, as it usually falls to them to communicate and justify these things to the students, who often ask very straightforward questions, and expect clear, logical answers.

Then, consider there's still Livejournal, Orkut, and Friendster, plus AIM, Yahoo Messenger, and the like. The news story about this makes no mention of those. So, theoretically, a student could just move her MySpace stuff over to another online community and *technically* still be in line with school policy while still being in just as much danger.

It would be reasonable for the school to block access to such sites and services from its own computers. Even public schools do this sometimes, to limit computer use to more academically oriented endeavors.

Furthermore, private religious schools have a right to demand that their students follow a code of conduct both in and out of school. If they discover that students are participating in immoral/illegal activities through MySpace, by all means, they may discipline those students as school policy dictates. But, it makes little sense for a school to ban something that has no inherent conflicts with its religious teachings.

In short, though well intentioned, this is a silly move which demonstrates an unfortunate lack of forethought on the part of the school staff, who have failed to realize that the evils of MySpace are not in the site itself, but in the intentions of a few people who use it, and the carelessness of many others.


Edit (March 25, 9:00 pm): Bill has posted an update, including the policy direct from the school website. My opinion remains unchanged.

No comments: