I read that headline on the front page of the Connecticut section of the New York Times this past weekend in utter dismay. Middle and high school students in the Greenwich, CT school system were found circulating nude photos of themselves, in provocative poses, over the Internet and cellphones. Once transmitted, the photos were re-transmitted, building a web of access far beyond the boundaries of the Greenwich community.
Who stepped in to bring the matter to the attention of the general public? Bravely, school superintendent Elliot Landon wrote a letter home to parents. In the letter, he reminded parents that despite stepped up efforts in the schools to run Internet safety programs, students were still engaging in risky behavior. With the school year coming to an end and little time to implement even more rigorous programs, Landon urged parents to take precautions now and with the summer months looming.
In his letter, Landon offered practical advice, assumping parents were available and willing to follow through. He told them to keep computers in common areas, ensure screens were visible, and maintain access to their children’s email passwords. He urged parents to “randomly check” their children’s e-mail accounts and “text messages and cellphone photos,” and be “upfront” about why they were checking.
In an interview for the New York Times, Landon expressed concern that the retransmitted photos exposed students to sex predators and total strangers. Connecticut State Police, when conducting in-school programs on Internet safety, remind students that those transmitting nude photos of children 16 and under are subject to pornography charges. State Trooper William Tate cautioned that people must understand that what is transmitted over the Internet does not disappear. For instance, college admissions counselors and employers pay forensic experts to rummage through candidates’ online histories.
What are your responses to the Greenwich story, the advice offered by the superintendent, comments by state police, and the whole issue of Internet safety? Was it right for the superintendent to step in once students brought the matter to his attention? What is the school's role, and how responsible are schools for the actions that students take off of school ground? In your opinion, will school Internet safety programs work?
Steele, M. F. (June 1, 2008). Nude student photos spur internet warnings. The New York Times [online]. Retrieved June 4, 2008, from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/01/nyregion/nyregionspecial2/01photosct.html?scp=1&sq=Nude+Photos&st=nyt
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