Officials fret over Facebook school 'confessions'
Facebook pages encourage Thunder Bay students to write confidential tales
School officials and mental health experts are worried about Thunder Bay students jumping on a growing trend to share embarrassing secrets on Facebook.
Anonymous confession pages used by Lakehead University and Confederation College students appeared online last week. Over the weekend, similar pages popped up for students in local high schools.
Confession # 87: "Once while waiting in the caf line up I shoved the slushy straws up my nose pretending to be a walrus. After that was done I put them back in the container for someone else to use ahaha."
Confession # 83: "Hiding alcohol in the washrooms before every school dance."
Confession #40: "I drank a 40 at lunch time and tried to drive back to school and a ... tree got in my way."
The posts on the Facebook page called Westgate Confession, viewed by CBC News on Monday, ranged from bathroom humour to tales of drinking and drug use.
"I drank a 40 at lunch time and tried to drive back to school and a .... tree got in my way," one post said.
That apparent confession to drinking and driving generated more than 50 Facebook "likes" and a string of comments, including "lol, we all know who this is."
Tom Walters of the Thunder Bay Children's Centre said he is worried younger students are using this kind of page as a vehicle to sensationalize alcohol and drug abuse.
He's also concerned that these supposedly "secret" Facebook confessions aren't really anonymous at all.
"I did see some comments that suggested kids were ... actually saying 'well I know who this is' ... and that could have ... quite a negative impact."
Walters said if students who put up embarrassing posts are identified, they could be at risk for cyber bullying.
Not endorsed by schools
The Facebook confession pages are not affiliated with — or endorsed by — the schools they name, officials report.
Spokespeople with both Thunder Bay school boards said they're concerned about their content.
St. Patrick's High School reported that on Monday, Facebook shut down a confession page used by its students after a teacher filed a complaint about a comment posted about her.
The director of education for Thunder Bay Catholic Schools said the confession pages pose a new challenge for the board.
"What you don't want to do is tell them they don't have a voice anymore," Joan Powell said.
"We want to give them a voice, but we want to give them ... a voice that is ... responsible and appropriate ... as opposed to just ... lashing out against something that they didn't like."
Powell said the danger of students commenting anonymously is that they can write whatever they want — whether it's true or not.
She added that the board has a responsibility to protect the public integrity of its teachers, staff and students.