Bristol mum angry at Twitter homework for girl, 8
A PARENT has accused a primary school of promoting the use of Twitter to underage children.
Helen Rogers was surprised when her eight-year-old daughter Bethany, a pupil at Blackhorse Primary in Emersons Green, was asked to write Twitter "feeds" for her homework.
She believes the homework served to encourage children to use the online social networking service before they reach the permitted minimum age of 13.
The children, who had been reading Shakespeare's Macbeth, were asked to write Twitter messages as diary entries in the character of Macbeth, expressing the character's thoughts and feelings.
But Mrs Rogers, 34, of South Gloucestershire, said she felt the mention of Twitter in the homework was inappropriate.
The mother-of-two said: "Bethany showed me the homework and said 'I've got this to do and I don't understand it'.
"I thought 'Why are they mentioning Twitter to an eight-year-old when you have to be 13 to go on it?'
"She doesn't know what Twitter is. Later she was asking me whether she needed a Twitter account.
"Messages on Twitter don't use grammatically correct English.
"We made a complaint to the school and were told 'That's how people are going to communicate in the future so we thought it could be useful'."
School head Simon Botten said the homework was based around the idea "If Macbeth had a Twitter account, what would he say?" and added that summarising text was an important literacy skill for children to learn.
The head teacher said that children were not asked to use Twitter and argued that making them aware of the social networking service "was not a bad thing".
He said: "Most eight-year-olds would have heard of it because it's mentioned a lot on children's TV. To summarise something in 50 words is a skill. To think very carefully about every word you use is something Twitter encourages.
"The homework was also about characterisation and imagination – being that character and sharing thoughts and feelings. We weren't promoting it – we were acknowledging something called Twitter exists.
"I don't think it's a good idea for children of that age to use it because they are not mature enough to go on it. But I think children should know what it is otherwise they will go on it behind your back.
"We take e-safety very seriously. We sent a newsletter out a while ago giving e-safety advice for parents."
A South Gloucestershire Council spokeswoman said: "Blackhorse Primary School is very aware of its responsibilities in terms of e-safety and did not encourage pupils to actively use social media in the homework task set."