National School Boards Association ED Responds to Schools Selling to Kids on Myspace
Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood asks the National School Boards Association to Disavow Industry-Funded Report on Social Networking
Local educators need objective, honest information – not marketing hype – to guide their efforts toward helping students grapple with the current unprecedented convergence of sophisticated, ubiquitous media technology and unfettered commercialism. The escalating push to drive kids to commercial online social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook, that are rife with embedded advertising, is getting a boost from an unexpected quarter — the National School Boards Association (NSBA).
One of the most recent calls for action by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has encouraged concerned parents to read a report published by the NSBA urging school boards to reconsider any rules against using commercial social networking sites in classrooms. While extolling the educational benefits of these sites in this report, it makes no mention of the fact that the primary purpose is to generate advertising revenue. This omission is not surprising seeing as the research, conducted by a public relations firm which is selling its data to corporations who wish to exploit it, was funded by Microsoft (which has a financial stake in Facebook), News Corporation (which owns MySpace) and Verizon, which advertises on both sites. (Click here to read the report)
Anne L. Bryant, Executive Director or the National School Boards Association, has sent a prompt response to one concerned parent’s letter:
To: Ms. Wildfield
I have received your e-mail concerning the NSBA report, Creating and Connecting// Research and Guidelines on Online Social-and Educational- Networking
While you clearly have read Dr. Linn’s letter to me, it is not clear that you have read the report at issue. I urge you to do so in order to see for yourself exactly what the report says and does not say. You can find a copy of the report at www.nsba.org.
NSBA stands behind a very good piece of research, conducted completely independently from any corporate funders. The reality is that students are accessing educational and social networks frequently and we wanted to find out how they are using these sites.
One of the main points of the report is to raise awareness that public schools need to recognize that students are using these sites and that educators must develop a better understanding of the elements of social networking sites. There are non-commercial sites that can be harnessed to engage students and further their learning. In addition, schools need to help students develop the Internet safety and media literacy skills necessary to deal with a world that clearly includes social networks.
For your further information, I have attached a copy of my response to Dr. Linn’s letter.
Anne L. Bryant
National School Boards Association
From: Sienna Wildfield
Sent: November 27, 2007
To: Dr. Bryant
Subject: Stop Selling Schools on MySpace
Dear Dr. Bryant,
I am writing to urge the National School Boards Association to disavow its report, “Creating & Connecting: Research and Guidelines on Online Social — And Educational — Networking,” which suggests that schools consider easing their restrictions on the in-school use of social networking sites.
This report, which was funded by corporations with a vested interest in promoting commercial social networking sites, makes no mention of the advertising that is rampant on the leading sites. Junk food, violent media, alcohol and tobacco are among the products promoted to young people on MySpace. Both MySpace and Facebook plan to mine users’ profiles for data that will allow marketers to send ads targeted specifically to their interests. Facebook is also encouraging young users to allow the company to send their friends unsolicited ads disguised as personal endorsements.
It is irresponsible for educators to partner with corporations on a report that blatantly promotes commercial interests at the expense of children’s well-being. If local school boards follow the NSBA’s recommendation, it will significantly increase students’ exposure to marketing in the classroom. I urge you to disavow the report and advise school boards around the country about the subtle and unscrupulous marketing techniques practiced by major commercial social networking sites.
RESOURCES FOR PARENTS
- Resource: Report of APA Task Force on Advertising and Children
- Read our post Commercial-Free Massachusetts Schools? for more resources