Today I listened to reports of the arrest of two middle school girls on charges of aggravated stalking due to bullying of a young woman named Rebecca Sedwick. The story was that the bullying had started at a middle school. When it continued, Rebecca's mother removed her from the middle school and home schooled her before transferring her to another middle school. But the alleged bullies continued their hateful bullying via cell phone and facebook. Rebecca eventually committed suicide.
As a middle school child I was one of my class's targets of bullying. There were six of us who were deemed the obvious targets (two boys and four girls) and the bullying ranged from verbal to sexual to physical abuse. Those were a rough three years. When the abuse I was going through became egregious I finally got the courage to describe it to my mother who alerted the principal and one of my teachers and their intervention eliminated the sexual abuse, but not the rest of it.
During those years my home was my safe place. Sure there were the usual squabbles between siblings, but it was the one place where my bullies were unable to reach me and my interactions were with family members and their friends who were fully present. I am more grateful than I can describe for that sense of haven and person to person connection with people who were undistracted and mentally present and generally civil..
So, I have long been an advocate of a cell phones turned off and parked at the door policy for minors. If their friends need to reach them they can call the land liine or a parental phone.
And I have long been an advocate of limited time online for pre-teens and teens too, simply because it is such a time sink and keeps kids from interacting with family members and focusing on whatever task is at hand. And facebook? Such a time sink and so trivial compared with real life and often inhabited by trolls? Probably not a good idea for middle schoolers at all.