The Impact of Facebook on Our Students

The Impact of Facebook on Our Students
January 12, 2009
Doug Fodeman & Marje Monroe
Demonize it, or extol its admissions and alumni-network virtues; the use of Facebook in our schools is likely to elicit strong opinions.   One thing is for certain, the use of Facebook repeatedly comes up in discussions about Internet safety, age-appropriate exposure, and student online behavior.   Though many schools have different policies for using or accessing Facebook, we share many of the same concerns.
Through our Internet safety organization,, we've surveyed the Internet behavior of thousands of Independent school children and teens.     We've learned a great deal about their use of Facebook and the inherent issues they face, as well as their schools, because Facebook is one of the 2 most popular websites for independent school students across grades 4 - 12.   (The other site is YouTube.)   We would like to summarize our shared concerns and address the issues that impact our students, and our communities.
NOTE: Though this article targets Facebook specifically, due to its popularity, it also applies to the many other social networks our students frequent.   They include YouTube, MySpace, Hi5, Friendster, Xanga, DeviantArt and others.
1. For those schools that allow it, the use of Facebook in our communities can take an inordinate amount of Internet bandwidth.
And for those schools that allow access to Facebook, how do we reconcile our concerns that younger and younger children are using this adult social network?   Four years ago it was rare to learn of a child under 7th grade with an account.   Last fall, for the first time, 4th graders began reporting to us that they had Facebook accounts.   We now estimate that about 60 - 70% of 7th graders have accounts and the number is higher for 8th graders.   These children are too young to be using Facebook or other adult social networks for the reasons detailed below.
2. Using Facebook takes time.   Often, a LOT...