BARANDUDA Primary School is preventing its students from turning into cyber-bullies by signing them up to a Facebook site for kids.
The school is among the first 100 in Australia to be trying the UK-based SuperClubsPLUS program, which is a social networking site for children aged 6 to 12.
The club allows students to chat, send emails, post blogs, join forums and build web pages while under constant supervision from teachers who act as “mediators”.
These “mediators” watch everything the students say or do and will intervene through a messaging system if they believe students are posting private information or sending negative messages to their peers.
Baranduda’s e-learning co-ordinator Angela Gray said the site was vital in combating the negative effects of cyber-bullying, such as the case of an Albury teenager who threatened to harm himself with a carving knife after prolonged cyber-abuse.
“On SuperClubsPLUS the kids can’t say anything nasty and if they do the mediators are right on top of it,” she said.
“I get a list of warnings from the mediators and we nip everything in the bud right from the start.
“We’re making a big deal of it in primary school in the hope that, as they get older, they’ll realise not to do it, even if it’s on their mobile phone.”
The SuperClubsPLUS program started in England in 2006 and has since spread to Kenya, Malaysia and broader Europe.
La Trobe University researcher Jennifer Masters, who is helping co-ordinate the launch in Australia, said it gave children a deeper understanding of internet ethics.
“We had a case where one girl told her friend that she’d just (moved up a level in the club) and her friend said ‘good for you’, which made the first girl quite upset,” she said.
“The friend then had to explain she was only being sarcastic, so we ended up having quite a long discussion about sarcasm and how, when you can’t hear the expression in a person’s voice, the message might come across unintentionally as being quite mean.
“In another situation a teacher was having problems with a girl sending nasty emails, so she printed one out and sat the two students down together.
“She asked the girl who wrote the emails to read one out loud but the girl couldn’t because she felt they were too nasty.”