Posted: May 3, 2010 in Life
Tags: , , , ,

A school principal in New Jersey sent a note home to parents, asking them to ban their children from social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, noting “there is absolutely, positively no reason for any middle school student to be a part of a social networking site!  None!”

He was alarmed at the nature of places like Facebook, and the fact that predators can easily can make their way to children quite easily.  

I pride myself on being socially aware and forward-thinking, yet….I can get behind his paranoia quite easily.   Having learned recently the lengths to which Facebook will advance its earnings – by opening up its patrons’ profiles just a little bit more, so that vendors can use meta-data to brag about their products…well the fact is, Facebook isn’t safe anymore.  Not for adults who value their privacy and certainly not for children who may or may not have mad linking skills.

A friend of mine recently got a computer for the first time in his life.  He sent me a message from within a video site.  In other words, he used the site’s mechanism for sending emails, instead of just copying the link from the browser bar and pasting it in as a link to a message to me directly.  

I went immediately into paranoid overdrive.   What he did, unknowingly, is give the owners of the website my email address.  They provided a link on the site:  “Want a friend to see this video? Put his email address here and a note will go out to invite him to look at it.”  What could be more helpful than that?

Right.  So now they have my email address and they can combine it with all the other email addresses they have on file, and now they can sell those addresses to other third-party vendors, some of whom are kosher and OK, and others of whom are scam artists.

I felt the need to educate him but frankly didn’t know where to begin.  As an internet neophyte there is so very much to learn. 

Like:  when you forward funny emails directly to a group of people – AND WHEN YOU LEAVE THEIR ADDRESSES IN THE TO: FIELD INSTEAD OF USING THE BCC: FIELD – you have to know that the email is going to go viral.  As friends in the inital group of recipients forward the funny email to their groups of friends….well, eventually thousands of people who you never knew and to whom you never intended the email to go to will suddenly find your email in their inboxes.  And while most of them might be just as normal as you and me there’s going to be a percentage of folk who are just not trustworthy at all.  And that percentage will suddenly have your email address, which they can use as they see fit.

People join up with Facebook, which warns you to use your real first and last name.   That’ s their rule.  And you know what gets me?  EVERYONE DOES IT.  We are such a trusting people.  

Those same people also join Twitter and some decide to play it safe by using a pseudonym.  Then they link their Twitter account to their Facebook and voilà!  Their real name shows up in the stream.   And some use Twitter to talk about, oh, well absolutely everything. 

Like:  “I bought a new laptop computer.” 

Followed by:  “I’m just heading out for a night on the town.  Hope my little cat can stand to be alone.”

And they wonder why, when they get home, their new laptop is gone and how the thieves knew when to break in.

Back to the principal of that school:  he worries that some gossip about a kid down the hall will make it out to the wide net.  Before the internet, the gossip stayed within a small group of friends.  No longer.  Bullying and preying has been taken to new heights. 

When I first read the article I thought he was being a bit of a boob.   Having read the entire email though (found here: ), and upon further reflection,  I’ve changed my mind.

I think he’s right to be paranoid.

(P.S.  I’m on Facebook and I don’t use my real name.  I’ve got a really freaky name on there.  Facebook’s rules can kiss my native-American ass.)   :)

  1. thoreyo says:

    Yes. I totally, wholeheartedly agree. Facebook is not a place for kids and adults should be more aware of what they expose on there. (Myself included…)

    Know what makes me shudder?
    Seeing an application-generated post from my eleven year old niece that reads: Lover of the day is… and then some name from her friends-list.

    As much as I think it´s every parent´s responsibility to make sure their child isn´t putting itself in a situation it can´t handle (such as online chatting, Facebook and those sort of things), I firmly believe it´s also their responsibility to teach the child about these things. Educate and give them means to handle those situations when you feel they are old enough/mature enough to give it a shot.

    (They ARE going to sneak around on social networks, no matter how hard we try to keep them away. That´s just how things are. It´s all so (too) easily accessable. )


    • Your last paragraph says it all, and indicates more than anything else the reality of it all, and the need for parents to establish good lines of communication early. You can try to ban them from those sites but curiosity and peer pressure will often win out.


  2. It isn’t paranoia if it is real. Very good post, Wolf.

    I say this as I send you my email address. Can you be trusted?

    I will believe anything you tell me.



    • I think the only thing one can trust another faceless entity on the net is that that person will look after his or own self interests. You can pretty much bet the bank on that one.

      On your first line: roger that! Sometimes paranoia just makes good sense.


  3. wordofabe says:

    I agree with this guy. I have a daughter who is a middle-schooler, though she doesn’t live with me. I follow her around online and it is a scary place. Ever heard of Wee World? Sounds sweet, right, like a place for kids? Yeah. And the pedophiles use it extensively. I file complaints every time I see something, but you can’t follow it all.

    People don’t realize what their sweet little children are subjected to online. People with children should not allow them un-supervised access to the internet–they are asking for problems.

    You got my goat.

    Give him back.


    • It’s sickening, the stuff that’s out there. I imagine the cops allow some of those sites to remain, just to track who’s coming and going so they can lock them up.

      The troubling thing is what Thoreyo said: kids are going to sneak around on social networking sites. So parents have a difficult task: to monitor where they go as best they can, and to communicate with them. Answer all of their questions and keep the door open for dialogue.


  4. contoveros says:

    Sounds like it is better to be safe than sorry.

    j michael


    • This is where the realities of the net butts head with the realities of childhood rebellion. The authoritarian nature of the principal’s warning really rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.

      Doesn’t mean he wasn’t right though.


  5. Just Kate says:

    My “paranoia” about online privacy is well known amongst our old blog community and you know that I’ve been struggling with it again regarding facebook this past week. People are SO NAIVE. It blows my mind. My “paranoia” is well founded and rational regardless of whether or not people want to see it.

    I don’t worry about my kids because I don’t allow them unsupervised computer access and they don’t have fb or myspace accounts. Heck, I don’t feel safe online myself! So, yeah, I take increasing precautions to protect myself.

    Facebook isn’t a non-profit. People need to get a grip. They make huge bucks by gathering our personal information, family connections, and “likes” and providing that information to advertisers. The recent changes in privacy are insidious.

    As for bulk e-mails…. *pulls hair out* I can’t figure out why people are SO DENSE. I’ve had to speak very slowly and explain why it’s wrong so many times and people still don’t get it. I am VERY careful about who I give my e-mail addy to and it pisses me off no end when people blithely hand it out to other people or toss my name in with a bunch of others for a friendly bit of SPAM. I don’t send bulk e-mails and I don’t ever want to receive them.

    As for you, my freaky friend, I’m absolutely certain that the gods of fb don’t really believe your name is Daddy Spanksalot. They just turn a blind eye when it comes to your non-compliant Native American ass, methinks.


    • “Facebook isn’t a non-profit”. And neither is Myspace.

      Just thought I’d repeat what you said because it needs repeating.

      Same as those seemingly innocuous sites that offer to send email messages to your friends on your behalf, so that they can enjoy the video/joke/whatever. They’re all out there to make money at your expense.

      If you saw a strange street busker performing some great stunts, and he asked you for your friends’ email so that he could invite them to his next performance….or even if he asked you for YOUR email address – would you give it him?

      Not freaking likely.

      So how is online asking and giving any different?

      You know something? I recently went to try and change my FB name and got a warning that they confirm all name changes. So I didn’t. But I noticed what I had for a backup name: Eggbert Ziegalbright

      Guess I was on a roll when I created the account. :)


  6. In case you missed my post on Kreativ Blogger awards, I have named you as a deserving recipient. See my post for details.


  7. Just Me says:

    I tend to agree *somewhat* with the principal. I have a ignore/hate relationship with Facebook and the like. I have serious reservations about privacy, among other things on there. The only reason I even have an account is because I was forced, at gunpoint…..or with paycheck held out at least…, to sign up for Work. Only in the tech business do they make you sign up for Facebook, every where else they’re trying to keep you off of it, ha.

    I’m sure the principal probably just made more kids want to use it by saying they couldn’t use it, isn’t that the way it works with kids when you tell them not to touch something?


    • thoreyo says:

      Well, to be fair, the principal sent a letter to parents. Right? So they´d deal with their kids facebook-surfing how they felt fit. (burn facebook burn! ;) )
      But you´re still right: tell them not to and they´ll be twice as eager to check it out…


      • Just Me says:

        Yes, that’s true, he did send it to the parents. Just the fact that they now know he doesn’t want them to use it is probably enough to make them want to use it though. I mean I’m quite anti-facebook and it’s almost enough to make me want to use it, and I’m not even a student there. ;)


        • Some kids don’t rebel for the sake of rebellion (though some do). Some just aren’t willing to be told what to do without some logic to back it up. “Because I said so” doesn’t cut it with them. Who could blame them?

          Long conversations where both parties listen is the only real way I know how to handle the clear dangers of social websites and everything else on the web. That’s probably going to result in compromise rather than an outright ban. But if both parties – parent and child – can talk openly about it, at least there will be an education in there somewhere. Far more valuable than just keeping them away from the computer, only to have them rebel in ignorance when mom and dad aren’t around.


  8. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by wolfshades. wolfshades said: Paranoia: […]


  9. It’s a weird situation we are in…we wanna be open – we want a community of online friends to co-operate with, share our thoughts and ideas with, do biz with…on the other hand we don’t want strangers to know EVERYTHING about us… I think I’m gonna clean up some of my social networking sites – i have done some, but not enough. And they are, of course, all LinkedIn (sorry, cheesy). lol


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