Students Find Ways to Thwart Facebook Ban

This article appeared in New York Times on September 2,2011, written by their contributor,JENNIFER CONLIN. SAM Daily Times finds it interesting and wants to share it with its readers.Happy Reading:

BANNING Facebook at school? Ha!

When Thom McKay realized that his son had figured out how to get on the social networking site even though his New Jersey middle school had blocked it, he asked the boy in astonishment how he had done it.
“Pretty easy, Dad,” his son retorted. “Don’t be an idiot. We know more about computers than the teachers do.”

More than 90 percent of children ages 12 to 17 use the Internet and nearly three-quarters of them are on social networking Web sites, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. So one can only imagine the digital battle teachers face when competing against the likes of Facebook for their students’ attention. It is a struggle that has led most schools in kindergarten through grade 12 to ban the social networking site.
But while it is easy for schools to block Facebook on their computer networks (through methods not unlike parental controls at home), students say it’s just as easy to get around the ban.

A few moments in front of a computer screen with a 14-year-old showed me just how easy. His quick Google search revealed at least 50 Web sites telling students the various ways they can trick the school’s system with proxy servers.

One such site even lists some of the “thousands and thousands” of proxy servers that can outsmart the school’s techies, with such not-so-smart sounding names as unblock.biz and proxypimp.com.

“Banning Facebook is pointless,” said Emilie MacDonald, a high school sophomore in Massachusetts. “Banning it only puts a challenge in kids’ minds.”

She added: “It’s the kids’ fault if they are distracted and earn horrible grades.”

One eighth grader, who preferred not to be named, said he coached a school administrator on avoiding the ban last year. She hated not being able to get on Facebook at work and asked for my help one day in the office,” the boy explained, more than a little sympathetic to her plight. “What could I do?”

But schools persist. “We know there is no education in social networking,” said Ken Sanders, the principal of a middle school in Michigan that has one of the firmest bans: students can work only on computers provided by the school, and cellphones are banned, too, since smartphones can’t be blocked on schools’ systems. “Kids should be in school to learn, so we have a system that blocks all personal access,” he said.

Some educators, however, are starting to believe that a ban is not the answer. “Rather than blocking social media in school, we feel it is important to help our students to learn to use social media safely and productively for both personal and academic reasons,” said Phil Kassen, director of the Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School in Manhattan.

Often that is easier said than done. In fact, said Haley McCalpin, a junior at a Connecticut high school, “Some kids stay after school to do homework, just because they know they can’t get on Facebook so they won’t be distracted.


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