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Parents Weigh In: Difficulty of Monitoring Social Media Sites, "Smut List" Problem

Parents, and some students, are decrying the recent "Smut List" problem as a signal of how difficult it is to monitor teens' use of social networking sites such as Facebook.

A student goes to school one morning, and even before he or she steps into the Student Center, he is painfully aware that because of a posting on a social networking site, the day will not be an easy one.

Through websites such as Facebook, Greenwich parents and children alike now congregate and communicate virtually. While there are many positives aspects of this new socialization, recent events show that there are drawbacks and even unintended consequences.

The problems emerged last week with revelations that town high school girls' first and last names were included in a Facebook page The “wall” on such page has become the cyberspace equivalent of the bathroom stall, one Greenwich Patch commenter noted last week.

And suddenly a decision to “post” becomes viral graffiti spreading from wall to wall and from cellphone to cellphone. Where is the sense of responsibility and accountability in this virtual world? Beyond hurt feelings, what if someone harms herself as a result of a posting? Does social media create a sense of social detachment to others through lack of empathy?

Greenwich parents, administrators and the authorities are , but some are concerned that perhaps not all students are. While many were upset, The Report Card learned, others viewed it as groundless gossip or simply using new technology to exercise one’s freedom of speech. Some students who are just ignoring it or laughing it off even wondering why they weren’t on the list or if they were, why weren’t “higher.”

What is a parent's role?

Adriana Ospina, a mother of five and past president of the Greenwich High School PTA, said that she heard that some of the girls were joking and saying things like "I should have been number 1 and not number 4.” Concerned, Ospina specifically asked about the girls who were on the list, she was told “that some were upset" but that their friends supporting the girls advising them to ignore. Sooner rather than later, something else will take top billing and people will stop talking about it.

But even for those not on the list, it has some thinking. 

Ospina said: “One of the girls I talked to did say that if her name had been on the list, she would not be able to go back to school.” 

Even more disheartening is that Ospina said that one of the boys didn’t believe the list to be "new" bad news “since most of the girls whose names were on it, were 'smuts' anyway and that everybody knew it.”

So what can parents do to help their children use social media networking in a civil and social way? And help their children deal with communication which allows for cruelty without orginators taking responsibility?

Julie Faryniarz, mother of three Greenwich teenagers, said that her first reaction to the List was that it was simply a very unkind act, but her second reaction was to check her childrens’ phones and computers. 

“I looked at my kids' phones and Facebook accounts and made sure that there were no postings or texts related to the the List.” 

Julie's daughter Katie, a freshman at GHS, said that the list "has definitely affected a lot of girls at my school."

With the latest viewing of the Race to Nowhere last week at GHS, parents, students and the School community are talking more about the stresses our students are facing.  Certainly the landscape of social stresses of being a teenage is quite different now that the cyberworld is a very real part of our society. Writing on a bathroom wall suddenly seems to pale in comparison to writing on a virtual wall.   

Sarah Darer Littman March 23, 2011 at 12:20 PM
The Greenwich PenWomen are sponsoring a talk INTERNET SAFETY FOR ALL AGES with a Special Agent from the FBI New Haven office at Arch Street Teen Center on April 27th at 7pm. I highly recommend parents attend if they are interested in learning about the legal dangers of engaging in this type of behavior. I'm strongly believe that in this day and age, we must be proactive parents, both online and offline. I've had monitoring software (E-blaster from Spectorsoft http://spectorsoft.com) on both my kids' laptops since one of my kids was the victim of a cyberbullying incident in the 5th grade. (Yes, that's how young it starts these days!) My kids know the software is on there and have since day one. I've told them it's the price of being online (which is a not a right, but a privilege in our household) until they are 18 and legally old enough to take responsibility for their own actions. I give my kids plenty of leeway with their online activities, because it's not my goal to be Big Brother, and they're teenagers, so I now they are going to be experimenting and trying to push boundaries, but if I see them going over the lines I've drawn for unacceptable behavior then there are discussions and consequences.
Mike Dasdy March 23, 2011 at 01:13 PM
Wow, a new crime and demands for a new law. Why? We let the technology get a ahead of us and we are afraid to act. So we'll get a new law that takes away more freedom. And yes, incivility is a right. The alternative is a legal standard based on not hurting anyone's feelings. Cyberbullying - who needs it? No one. Parents, Take Control of the computers in your house! Tell the kids you are in charge, and you are liable, so you will tell them what is acceptable. If you are paying for a cell phone, demand to see the text messages. Be a parent, or your kids will do what they want. Our kids run free on the web, and most parents throw up there hands in surrender. Either we parents take charge or our kids will. "Saramerica" says it nicely, but I don't have as many word in me.
Heidi March 23, 2011 at 01:56 PM
I highly believe that at the end of the day, parents truly need to have more connection to their children and be informed as much as possible about what they are involving themselves in. Greenwich High School, just like many schools in the nation, has just become more polluted and polluted as generations go by. It's as if the sense of morality and ethics are unknown to many. Now, this is not to say that all children follow the same route, but it's disgraceful that bullying has increased in such massive proportions. In the age of technology, there is no "excuse" for a parent to not be aware whether their child(ren) is/are being cruel to others, or find themselves in less than desirable situations. It's time to take the reigns forcefully and get 'involved'. I personally check my childrens' Facebook accounts for I know the insanity that can take place. And if such insanity is noted, that child should face consequences, consequences beyond "taking said phone/computer" away for a period of time. Thankfully, my children aren't "addicted" to such social networking sites and still enjoy life outside, sightseeing, riding their bikes, enjoying their childhood/teenagehood. Furthermore, these children/teenagers should "realize" that there is a world beyond cyberspace. Go outside, ride a back, slide down the slide, live life innocently, for life quickly passes by. -H-
Rita McCusker Bonanomi August 02, 2011 at 07:56 AM
Suggestion..One way to exchange information confidentially is to use the private message area provided on Facebook.

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