After hearing about the tragic death of a college student committing suicide over a make out session that got broadcast out the internet I realized we as a country have a big issue on our hands. Teens and young adults are using technology in ways that their parents never imagined and don’t really understand.
In the tragic case of this college prank, we only know about it because it ended in death and therefore made the nightly news. This sort of thing is not new however. This kind of prank is going on at some level all around the world right now. I’ll admit it’s funny to record someone doing something and then pointing it out to them later on. I get that. The issue here is what happened next. Let’s say I set up a camera in my kitchen to see who was sneaking in to the kitchen to eat that last piece of pie in the middle of the night. That recording is in one spot- my camera. When I confront the person in question, it’s not a big deal to erase the recording and move on. If I were to instead broadcast the live feed to my kitchen out to the world for public view that would be a problem. Now I don’t know who is watching or even if they are recording it. Whoever I catch on my camera will be broadcast live without their knowledge to whoever wants to watch. That’s the problem.
The same issue exists with “sexting”. Again, I can see the humor in using your phone to take a picture of your butt and sending it to a friend as a joke. It’s the same concept as making copies of your butt on a copy machine and sharing that with some lucky ducks. Is it a good idea? No. Is it funny? Depends on the situation I guess. The difference is the viewership. Copies are static and could get into the wrong hands to be sure, but overall, there will be a limited audience. On the cell phone however, that photo could be sent to an entire email list, could be posted onto the web for all to see, or even saved for someone for later use. (I’ll talk later of the ramifications of taking photos of your private parts and sending them to someone who might appreciate them.)
Cyber bullying is a term that is getting thrown around today and is a real issue not just for our young people but for us all. In it’s essence, Cyber Bullying takes place when someone uses the internet (and related technologies) to control or humiliate someone. Let’s say I have a compromising photo of someone taken at a party. If I post that picture on my Facebook page with a nasty comment about that person, and invite everyone to come look at it, I’m Cyber Bullying. If I continue to say mean things about the person, encourage others to join me in saying and doing mean things to the person, I am a Cyber Bully. It has in some cases caused people to feel so trapped and overwhelmed that they have been driven to take their own lives. The issue again is the huge audience that social media provides. Social media is not the culprit however, people are. We have to learn how to be good Cyber Citizens and not tolerate Cyber Bullying.