Should students be suspended over Facebook?

A 13-year-old girl posted this status update on her Facebook page: "I wish Osama Bin Laden would have killed my teacher instead of the 3,000 people in the twin towers". Here's what happened after she hit the "Share" button . . .
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photo courtesy wmur.com

photo courtesy wmur.com

A 13-year-old girl posted this status update on her Facebook page:

"I wish Osama Bin Laden would have killed my teacher instead of the 3,000 people in the twin towers".

Here's what happened after she hit the "Share" button . . .

I can see several of the points brought up here, but let me tell you what my first (and most firey) response is.

I agree that this is the wild, wild, west of the internet, but that doesn't mean that behavior doesn't come without consequences. We live in a world where Columbine has left an indelible impression on our society, where we hear about people committing suicide because of things posted about them on the internet and where parents, teachers and society at large are left to wonder what red flags were missed and how these tragedies could have been averted.

I also get that teenagers often do things they haven't fully thought through. I was a teenager, I've said and done things that were immature and that I regret - because, well . . . I was immature. But I grew up in a different world. The 90's don't seem like that long ago to me, but the internet was something that we had just started discussing when I was 13. (p.s. I challenge someone out there to find me the video/commercial of a girl, on an abandoned freeway, whispering "it's coming . . . the information super highway is coming". It was on "Channel 1" when I was in Jr. High sometime between 1990 and 1993. I've been looking for a YouTube of that for years now!)

But I digress . . .

Whether we agree with what the school did or not, the fact of the matter is that what kids do online will be with them forever. In this case, when her name is Googled for college, for a job, or for any other reason - guess what's going to come up top in the results? Well, maybe the story on CNN about how she said that Osama Bin Laden should have killed her teacher on 9/11.

It's all nice and fine to play the victim card and say that her education was interrupted. But the truth of it all is that she made a bad choice, and with choices come consequences which for better or for worse are going to stick with this young lady for a long time. That's what our kids need to understand. They are just not posting this to a group of friends, they are posting it to the world. And just because your Facebook status profile is "private" that doesn't mean that your 500 friends have signed an NDA regarding your bad behavior. I think Miley Cyrus and Michael Phelps could tell us a think or two about that.

I'm sure that we have rules, guidelines and social evolution ahead of us that will tame this internet beast. Until then parents not only need to talk to their kids about how to use Facebook, safely and appropriately but our kids also need to understand that shouting things online is akin to shouting them in the public square downtown. I'm sure I'm invoking the spirits of internet karma and that when my kids hit Jr. High that we'll be faced with multiple suspensions as I type, but I'm not down with the mother's approach and opinion about how her daughter was victimized and that her education was interrupted.

What do you think?

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