Monday was my youngest son’s first day back to school. He is now a senior in High School; it should be an exciting and fun filled year. However after hearing about an assembly and a lecture on internet safety it is likely to be more interesting than fun.
The principal decided that it would be a good idea to have a Wyoming police officer gives a lecture on internet sexual predators. To illustrate how dangerous the internet can be the officer pulled up a few students MySpace pages and displayed them for the entire student body. The officer criticized photos and the page’s content and even told the student body that he shared information with a sexual predator in prison. One student was so humiliated she left the auditorium in tears.
I understand the principal had the best of intentions in having this police officer lecture on internet sexual predators. High School kids need to be aware that when they post anything on the internet, everyone on the planet can view the content. I can even understand the police officer using shock tactics to try to emphasize the urgency. He is, after all, exposed to nothing but creeps, criminals, rapists and thugs every day. But the officer went too far and the principal should have known the content of the lecture before it was given.
Embarrassing children in front of their peers for the purpose of teaching them to be cautious is wrong, but reviewing kids MySpace pages then calling them “slutty” and an invitation to sexual predators is insulting, and dangerous.
Would it be ok if a nutritionist came to the school and asked all the fat students to come up to the stage and show everyone how dangerous it is to be overweight? I am sure that more people suffer an early death from poor diet than from rape. Think of your own little world, how would this tactic work in your office? How would you feel if there was an assembly at work and the IT department showed a slide show of all the personal photos and e-mails people sent during company time?
I am still amazed at the comments from this story on the 9News website. People are congratulating the police for being stern, chastising the parents for not monitoring their students web activities well enough, blaming the children for being naive about internet predators, and saying basically that being slutty is just asking for it!
The worst part of this whole episode at the assembly is the message it gives to the students.
“He told about a story about a girl in another state who was tracked through MySpace who was raped and shot and then said that the student’s page is inviting people to do the exact same things to her,”
My jaw dropped.
MySpace pages are inviting criminals?
Stop trying to make the victim responsible for the crime. The idea that there is a connection between your webpage, your cloths, or how you present yourself as an invitation to criminal activity is wrong and dangerous.
Is acting “Gay” an invitation to get beaten up by homophobe thugs? Should homosexual men watch how they walk to keep from enticing redneck homophobe criminals?
Should women wear burqas in public to prevent lustful tendencies in men?
Should short skirts, and high heels come with a rape disclaimer?
Should wealthy people watch how they dress to prevent criminals from robbing them for their wealth? Will there be a market for gold watches that look like plastic?
Sure it’s irresponsible to walk through a high crime area with a sign that says “I am rich and carry lots of cash rob me”, but I do not think that is what the internet has come to. It’s a tool, and like any tool it can be abused. Blaming the victim, or the tool, or the weapon is the wrong lesson.
Everyone should be aware of what goes on around them. Teenagers need to be aware that every word and every picture that they put on the internet is open to the masses. No mater how secure the website someone can get in if they want too. But remember it’s the predator that looks for victims. Whether online, standing in a dark corner at the mall, or across the street from the high school, a sexual predator is just that, a predator, and should be treated accordingly.
Making the victim responsible for the crime is the wrong message. Singling out individual students to set them as an example of risky behavior is wrong. I would like to think that a principal of a High School would know better.
It’s a poor lesson.