The attempt to introduce the classes stems from several suicides linked to cyberbullying, along with sexual slanders, racist comments and anti-Semitic content being posted on social networking services. Some schools have already begun classes to teach proper Internet usage to students, according to The Telegraph.
The Federation of Parents and Citizens’ Associations of New South Wales said students were often not clear on the consequences of their actions when posting offensive content online. The federation, which represents parents at around 2,200 schools, wants the government to officially introduce social networking education classes into schools. The federation also believes that classes would help inform teachers about the risks of social networking services.
“Kids engage in these acts without any thought of the consequences,” said David Giblin, a spokesman for the association. “Cyberbullying is not an issue that is going to go away. In extreme cases, it is literally harassment with a constant stream of insult and threat. There are cases where children have gone into depression and even suicided as a result of this harassing and bullying.”
Shore, which is a private boys’ school in Sydney, wrote to parents recently to warn them of the long-term effects of actions that are carried out on social networking services. The school’s headmaster, Timothy Wright, said, “Mistakes made at 15 may be still retrievable by an employer 10 years later.”
Several playground fights in Australia — including one where a bullied youngster fights back — have made their way on to YouTube and even television.
Launching social networking education classes may not be a bad idea. Critics will undoubtedly argue that they will lead to a reduction in teaching time for other areas of the curriculum. However, as more and more people join social networking services (Facebook now has 750 million active monthly users and Twitter has 200 million registered accounts), it is becoming increasingly imperative that people know the risks of using them.