Miguel Guhlin at Around the Corner v2 posted a video last week aimed at teaching teens the danger of posting material about themselves on the internet. The original post
is here. He received a comment chastising him, and the video itself, for "blaming the victim" rather than focusing on the internet users who misused the posted material. The response post is here.
I'm weighing in on this issue because it is not just teens that need to be educated on this issue, and it is not just misuse of material on the web that can cause great problems for the person who posted the material. Many teachers have found themselves facing job troubles - including termination - because of material posted by them or about them on the web. Most problems related to posting on the web do not involve legal violations, although there are copyright infringement and stalking situations that come up. But the majority of problems, including the most serious ones, do not involve any violation of law. They involve the revelation of private or embarrassing information. Ironically, the world wide web has returned us to the days when we lived in small communities and everybody knew your business.
I have seen teachers face employment troubles because of risque photos (not legally pornographic, just risque), because of emails to students that gave the appearance of inappropriate relationships, because of bulletin board postings that revealed student information, because of membership in swinger groups, because of "weird" artwork, because of publication of off-color summer jobs, and because of statements and opinions posted on websites.
I have seen the types of things teenagers post on MySpace and similar sites, and the thing that always strikes me about those postings is that they are full of the things that my generation spent great amounts of energy trying to hide from our parents. Teenagers these days either don't understand that their parents have access to this material, or they no longer care.
The real danger of putting things on the web is that they are accessible to anyone and they stick around forever. Teenagers posting tales of their exploits may find themselves having to answer for those actions in future job interviews. Teachers "venting" about difficult students may have to face the students' parents next week.
Teaching people the risks of posting both words and photos on the internet is not blaming the victim. Others are entitled to read and view material and to use it in their judgments about the person. After all, the person him or herself posted the material, it's a pretty reliable piece of information about their character, although it may not be the only, or even the dominant piece.
One reason many people don't like to attend high school reunions is that they feel they have changed so much from their high school years and they don't like being viewed again as they used to be. But posting personal information on the internet may mean that you will never be able to avoid who you used to be.
It's important to educate kids and adults on this issue.