Monday, October 04, 2010

The Controversy, part Deux

The latest controvery, or should we call it, horror show, took place at Rutgers University, in two dorm rooms, with a web cam and total lack of concern for the right to privacy. As a consequence, one young man is dead and two have ruined their lives.

One of my friends said that the two students who taped their ‘friend’ having homosexual sex, were awful, mean, kids, who knew exactly what they were doing, enjoyed the idea of humiliation, and should be severely punished. Actually what she said was that “something really terrible should happen to them”. That seems to be in agreement with what the school administrators and civil rights activists think.

My feelings about this whole are mixed. It seemed that the kids were all friends. That the perpetrators thought the whole episode was a joke and had no idea what the consequences might be. And the consequences, whether expected or unexpected, were severe. The target of the humiliation, threw himself off the George Washington Bridge and tragically, died.

Another friend was equally adamant about the fact that they were just kids having fun. She thought they could have been her niece and nephew or any college student who had spent their lives expecting to have anything they did, made public – “Facebook”, “My Space”, “Twitter,” “You Tube,” etc. She felt that kids today have no concept of privacy, so why should they respect it.

Another pal felt that the reaction to what happened was pretty much after the fact. That during orientation, students should have to take some classes about the idea of privacy and how it impacts on civil rights, or just the day to day lives of kids today. This idea is a good one, but even this might be after the fact. All you have to do is talk to a high school student who has posted a picture of himself or a friend in a compromising position. Chances are, these kids have no idea of what a picture, a movie, or just an update, can mean to their future, (school, a job, any decisions made about them, or to someone who is the target of whatever the questionable message – be it picture or prose.)

We will all see what happens. My sense it that this, like the overreaction to drugs (like aspirin) in schools, will not make a difference in whether or not kids have a more enlightened perspective on privacy.

So, how do we learn a lesson in this dreadful result, and who teaches it. Little bitty kids, 2 and three are now using their parents computers and their iPhones. How do we instill in them a realization that there is a serious difference between what is public and what is private. The only person that gets to decide what should be public is the person for who is messaging, posting, writing, or creating a picture. No one else – no one, is allowed to make that decision for another person. And to take it one step further, no one should be able to invade or steal your personal space and contacts with something you don’t want to read or know. It is appalling how many porn, sales, and medical sites can circumvent the protection of the spam folder to inundate someone with disgusting or useless information.

The question really is, how do we learn and teach our children the sanctity and importance of privacy and personal space. How do we teach people, not only children, respect for every individual to make decisions about what other people can know. The irony is that public figures, who make their living and are important because they are public (like reality show families and contestants), expect what is said and written about them, (especially in a public forum) to be protected.

What we have come to know as “Lindsay Lohan” behavior unfortunately encourages our kids to think that bad behavior and the lack of respect for themselves, as well as the public, is quickly becoming the norm. Yes, I am emerging as one of the world’s colorful old farts. We’re just sayin’… Iris

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