Facebook is a Haven for Bullies

When you put the responsibility of having a Facebook page in the hands of young children, you will find that most will use it in the right way.  Unfortunately, it’s those that don’t who spoil it for the rest of them.

MELBOURNE schools and police are battling to remove a Facebook page that allows teenagers to post vile gossip about their peers.

Teachers feel powerless to stop the site, which has resurfaced in various forms over the past month and left students at schools in Ivanhoe and Heidelberg needing counselling.

Parents have been shocked by postings on the page, which include allegations of sex between teachers and students, girls who trade sex for drugs and boys who have been caught wearing their mothers’ clothing.

Most parents were unaware their children had been vilified until notified by their school.

The ”Ivanhoe Goss” page is filled with comments sent by members to the group’s creator, who reposts them anonymously. One page seen by The Age had more than 2300 members.

Schools including Ivanhoe Grammar School, Ivanhoe Girls Grammar School and Marcellin College are implicated in the gossip, but it is believed students from other parts of Melbourne are also members.

And similar Facebook pages have been set up for students in Essendon, Dandenong, Glenferrie and Caulfield.

Ivanhoe Grammar principal Rod Fraser said public and private schools in the region had banded together when the site was discovered on April 13 to raise the alarm with parents and students. The site is believed to have been created as a public page on April 10, but was re-created as a private page about a week later after schools warned students about being involved in cyber-bullying.

Mr Fraser said police and Facebook had been contacted about the page and were investigating those responsible. Three students and their families had been given support after gossip was posted about them on the page, and the school had developed a website to provide information on cyber safety.

”This great thing that we have, technology, can also be insidious,” he said.

Ivanhoe Girls Grammar School principal Heather Schnagl said ”less than five” students had been disciplined for being involved on the site. But no student had been suspended or expelled.

Two students had been counselled after being bullied.

”We deeply regret the poor judgment shown by any student who visits or posts a comment on a site like that one,” Dr Schnagl said.

”One of the biggest challenges … is many parents don’t understand the digital landscape today and … they trust their children rather than maintaining the role of the parent.

”We want to empower our parents to work with us to help students … They are shocked when they are shown what their daughter has posted.”

And some want to alter the age requirement  and allow kids less than 13 to get a Facebook page?

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