UK and Irish schools need to educate, not ban, now
The need for schools in the UK and Ireland to educate children on what self-publishing means rather simply than ban the tools, has never been higher, as Bebo are on the verge of opening up their platform to developers.
By following Facebook's lead in allowing developers to create their own applications to work within the teen social network, Bebo is set to see a similar explosion in the number of users and the amount of use - more, perhaps, than the current 41 minutes of time spent each night by the average UK teen. The ultimate aim, to keep Bebo alive.
But there's a huge difference between Bebo and Facebook that makes this move smell a little fishy: the average age of Bebo's users must be about half that of Facebook.
The move to open up means that the information placed online by teens, both before now and from now on, will become far more spreadable, far quicker. Applications ask for permission before being used but what they do with your information after that point is unpredictable: one case in point, from Facebook, the number of people who appear to be suddenly happily married or, worse, divorced from their better halves [How Facebook ended my marriage].
Potentially, a new application installed on your page could start to replicate your data out of context elsewhere on Bebo, for public consumption, in much the same way as some Facebook apps have done. Adult users of Facebook, 'expert users' like Crampton, even, have already had to learn to navigate this open-ended app-filled social networking world the hard way. How much we are willing to let kids explore this on their own, in the wild, and make their own mistakes the hard way is another matter, when the consequences are arguably greater. How Bebo pitch this to their younger users will be an important factor, too, for educators wanting to plan digital literacy into their work.
So, if you are a teacher in a UK or Irish school, the latter a country where Bebo has 95% penetration in the teen market, don't hang about for Bebo. You need to start thinking about how you are going to educate your students in the art of self-publishing without signing away their content, their private information and their online life. What Bebo want to do is not 'bad' per se, but it's open to misunderstandings and mistakes will be made by young people who don't know how to play the game because they haven't been told how.
Are you going to ban or are you going to educate, Teacher?