When Sackgirl started school I thought I would be an involved mum and try to be part of the school community! So I went along to a few PTFA meetings. In a dingy local pub one night I was introduced to five women, four of whom were parents at the school and one stern elderly lady who was head of the WI and clearly also ran the whole village.
These ladies were doing a great job of keeping the school full of events and cake stalls. But talk about a clique. This group had been together for a few years and they were not keen on new ideas! They bemoaned the fact no other parents would help and then dismissed every suggestion I came up with. Especially when I mentioned that their communication was abysmal (tact was leaving the room by then, I was pretty frustrated) and suggested some sort of webpage or facebook group.
You would think I had walked into the local church, stood on the altar and announced we were going to be inviting in the devil. Shock, horror, distaste and a fair few sneers got thrown my way. ‘We don’t need that sort of thing,’ I was told. I gave up.
Roll on 3 years, those ladies all quit en mass for whatever reason and the PTFA was left empty, abandoned. The Christmas Fayre was in jeopardy. It was a crisis. And because I just cannot stop sticking my nose in where I really should back away quietly until I can flee round the nearest corner, because when I see a problem I want to fix it, because I really don’t have enough to do with a full time home working business and two kids – I volunteered.
Three of us did, in fact. You have to have three. A Chair, a Secretary and a Treasurer. I actually took on Treasurer, because some small shred of sanity did kick in and say ‘You do not have time to be in school every week arranging cake sales and making pancakes with the kids.’
Unfortunately, it was only us three. Other parents, either used to not being wanted by the previous clique or because they just couldn’t be arsed, just didn’t seem interested. So this time I just went ahead without asking. I set up a Facebook group and page for our school PTFA. Then I went to see the Headmistress to explain to her why I thought it was a great idea for communication and to get the other parents involved.
I met more resistance. ‘The parents will slag off the school and complain about us.’ ‘It’s very open to abuse.’ ‘It’s not secure.’ ‘Facebook – I’m not sure.’
Fear of the internet, because we all know that it can be used ‘the wrong way’. It’s true that there are some sick, perverted people out there who prey on our children using the internet.
It’s true there have been incidences where kids have bullied each other online, in some cases so extremely that children have ended up emotionally harmed or hurting themselves physically.
There have been incidences, locally, where parents have slated and bullied each other and teachers online, causing emotional harm and distress to other adults. Teachers have resigned, lost their jobs, lost their sense of worth and joy in a career that made them want to work with our children in the first place. That is beyond sad. I wonder sometimes how we humans became so hateful to each other that we want to destroy each others happiness.
All of these issues were cited by the Headmistress as reasons why we should not use the internet for communication. They can be valid points. But I think this is also fear talking. Not fully understanding the tool we are using and so not putting in the safety measures that keep us safe.
To me the internet is a tool. It can be used for great good as well. Charities and fundraisers have found they can spread the word of what they are doing much faster and to a wider audience through use of the internet. Communication is visual, a picture speaks a thousand words.
The internet can be used for education. It has enabled thousands of people who were housebound or friendless to find friends, to leave their homes and meet people, albeit virtually. The internet has changed our lives in so many ways, some bad, for sure. But there can be so many benefits from it as well, we just have to use it in the right way.
As it is, I explained the safety measures we would be using – a secure group, invite only, moderators, guidelines for use, no children – she settled down. The main point I made was that our parents could not be bothered to get involved and come along to meetings, but the majority of them do use Facebook. Putting our information on there delivers it directly to their eyeballs (provided we can get them to sign up) and maybe a few more will decided to offer up ideas and join in. Because frankly, if they didn’t, our PTFA was dead on the water.
Which means no more funds for the school.
Silly me – always mention the money first! After that, she caved much faster.
The fear of the internet remains though. I succumbed myself just recently, suddenly wondering whether it was safe to be putting pictures of my kids on my blog. It’s a sad thing that this wonderful tool can be used so badly some dregs of humanity that it makes us fear to use it at all.
But as it is here to stay, I think it is a vital part of everyone’s education now – how to use the internet safely should be a mandatory lesson in schools and one given to all parents. What do you think?