RED MUM has already warned about the dangers of the uber-popular site Bebo. Walking through Trinity while students are studying for exams, it's easy to assume that Bebo is a revision topic in several courses because no fewer than one in four computer screens showed Bebo activity when I glanced over shoulders. You're either in Bebo or you're a leper. And you don't have to make your own Bebo page because as Ray D'Arcy has discovered, you can merely cede your name to a fan and they will make up your identity from there. I've seen some Bebo profiles with identities that I am sure third level students will want to lose in the near future. The identities are real names, real pictures of drunken behaviour, half-naked cavorting, and general messing-around that might look good in a pyramid of pictures but in no way could be used as on a CV. The problem is that once your killer photo is linked to a big tribe in Bebo, that becomes your Google presence.
Once elevated to a compromising position on a major search engine, your only hope of retracting the evidence is to change your name. That's a big deal for a lot of people. That's also the reason I travel the internet with four identities. One of them is so far removed from reality that it must remain in the realm of Second Life forever.
I like Bebo because it gives substance to the theory we teach in our third level Mass Communications and Culture module. It also validates our list-driven, tribal urges. Bebo is social networking on steroids.
I don't agree that it's forum for cyber-bullying. Bullying happens wherever people congregate. The only way to stop bullying is to limit groups to no more than two people. Nonethless, there are calls to block the site. The Irish Vocational Education Association (IVEA) has rowed in with a request to block it from all secondary schools. Fair enough, if the site's addictive qualities divert students from accomplishing directed assignments, students should be pulled away from it just like they're pulled out of the toilets and forced to sit in class and learn.
You need to know you're in a toilet when you're supposed to be in class. There are some parts of Bebo that are just the same as the material guys and girls talk about in the toilet. Those discussion topics, special secrets and social currency often distract from learning. Perhaps the taxpayer should not pay for those distractions. Some Dublin schools have already blocked Bebo. That's as much a testimony to the site's success as it is to the site's distracting qualities.
I think we can trust the perspective of the National Centre of Technology in Education. NCTE doesn't have to go over the top and blacklist the site because it sounds sinister. It's straightforward--if it distracts from the critical time-sensitive task of studying for important academic exams, it needs to be cornered into a cul de sac and restricted in its use. That's how all productive employees in today's knowledge economy work. You won't find many of them messing with Bebo during their business day. That's a lesson worth learning in schools.
Red Mum -- "Me No to Bebo"