Friday, July 12, 2013

Moral and Legal Issues

Technology has really become a staple tool in many places of residence around the world. You may not necessarily find a cordless drill, hammer, skill saw, lawn mower, screw driver,  or a shovel. But, you can almost guarantee that you will find some piece of technology that can connect the user to online collaboration. With this "power, comes great responsibility." - Uncle Ben Parker. (Well, to get technical about that quote, the appropriate citation would have to reference Stanley Lieber better known as Stan Lee)

On a serious note, technology connects users globally, and provides an opportunity to interact in a seemingly, real-time setting. The responsibility of the user appears as they share ideas, stories, media, and other information. There is an appropriate etiquette that most humans follow when interacting with one another in a public setting, this same type of etiquette should be used when interacting in an online setting . To put it simply "The internet is like a mall" (Ripp, 2010). When you go to the mall, you mind your own business  Normally, you're not going around handing out your personal information and talking to everyone you pass. This same attitude should be used when collaborating online. To stay safe you need to mind your business and share limited personal information. Public behavior at the mall also follows etiquette deemed acceptable by society. Meaning that there is an appropriate way to behave in public to treat others respectfully and carry yourself with dignity. The typical person is not running the hallways of the mall pushing and shoving other people, using profanity, bullying or harassing anyone else. If you do decide to behave that way there are legal ramifications for your actions. The same attitude should carry you through your online public and personal interactions. There can be legal ramifications for your actions online. When interacting online, there is a written archive of your behavior. That behavior is easily traceable to your online persona, especially if the authorities were alerted to cyber-bullying or harassment. Interactions online doesn't put a mask over who you are and how you want to be viewed. There seems to be false confidence with some users, who feel as their online persona is an alternate personality  allowing their version of  Mr. Hyde to appear  You should just behave the same way you would if you were at the mall or any other public setting. 

Similarly when interacting online, there are some  privacy and other legal rights that users should be aware of. True, it is legal to take public pictures of anyone and anything,  and then share those images. Yet, your own code of ethics should govern your decisions of what you do with those pictures and how you share them. Remember, as soon as you share a photo via any social media, that photo is no longer your property. The only way to gain ownership back is if you, or the original author closes their account down entirely.  Even if you shared an image with good intentions, someone else can take that photo and use it to harass or bully. You really need to be careful with what you share, how you share things, and who you share them with. 

There can be penalties for your actions online, and their can be unpredictable ramifications. The key thing to remember is that you should abide to the same moral code that conducts your daily social interaction while you interact online. Make sure your sharing media with people who you know and trust, and if you are going to interact on a larger community or global scale, be leery of what you write. View your online interactions like any other public interaction you may have in your daily life. You most likely wouldn't go up to someone on the street and share information about a party you went to a few days ago, so why would you share that to the entire digital public? The border between morality and legal actions while interacting online is a fine line. You have legal rights as defined in your First Amendment  but there is some grey areas where some people claim the  first amendment grants them the right to say and write anything.   Harassment  or bullying are the same thing whether it is in writing  or pictures. If it has the potential to harm someone, or degrade another person your are walking out of that first amendment protection. If you notice any behavior that offends you, it probably offends someone else and you should report that incident. The easy thing to do is report it through the social media site where it occurred  The next best thing to do would be to alert a person of authority. If you are under 18, alert a parent, teacher, school principal, or maybe even the police. If you feel as though something you are going to say may upset someone online, or may not read the way you want it to sound, maybe you should not post anything. It is hard to express sarcasm  or a joking tone through writing  Even the most famous writers have to provide tremendous character development before a reader understands that the character is joking. 

The moral of this post is to keep you online interactions positive  safe, and respectful. Report any incident of harassment  bullying, or anything that makes you uncomfortable. Make sure you understand your rights as a user on that social media (i.e Read the fine print before you click I agree!!), make sure you understand the difference and similarities between digital social interactions and typical social interactions  They are pretty much the same thing, and require the same level of mutual respect. 

Here is a quick guide I put together a while ago, about staying safe from Cyber-bullying.


Ripp, P. 2010. Why the Internet is like the mall. Retrieved from


  1. Mike,
    It's interesting that you mention how some people feel using the internet allows them to take on an alternate persona, when this is true in some situations; people can "become" someone else in an online game or in a virtual world. How do we continue to model and set expectations for digital citizenship and safe Internet behavior when kids can act very differently based on their online environment. I hadn't thought about it before because I don't participate in either one. Then again, is it a teacher's role to help kids distinguish between their various worlds and the expectations within each if they aren't participating in them while under our supervision?

  2. Mike I think cyber bullying is a big problem. As teachers we need to do more to recognize it and alert the proper people to handle it. I think that a lot of children feel like they can get away with things because they are hiding behind a computer screen.