I love Facebook. It’s enabled me to connect with people whom I had long ago nearly forgotten, to see pictures of old friends in their current configurations, and to meet new people who are kindred spirits and quirky characters. (It has also sucked away hours of time that should have been spent more productively, but that’s one of the many challenges we all must learn to deal with in this brave new age!)
As a high school guidance counselor, it has also presented me with some of my greatest challenges in terms of how to deal with kids that are being mean to each other in ways that I couldn’t have imagined when I was in high school. Whether it is setting up a fake page posing as someone else and making them look like a fool, or girls pretending to like some lonely boy only to get him to confess his undying adoration before squashing his heart, or posting Photoshopped images that enable anyone with minor tech skills to make anyone else into anything they want them to be, or making crude and nasty threats to students at other schools so that extra security has to be hired prior to athletic events, the Internet has radically altered the landscape that teens inhabit.
The fact of the matter is that the tools utilized by teens – whether it’s cell phones, laptops, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, IMs or iPods – have created a virtual Wild, Wild West in which very few rules are written, much less applied with any effectiveness whatsoever. Teenagers figured this stuff out long before we did, and now they have set up their own outlaw outposts on the Internet and we adults come along like a bunch of rubes from back east, telling them they need to clean up their acts. The truth is, most teens have already been at this for a couple of years, and only recently have most of us responsible for their welfare been taking a noticeable interest in their activities.