My school is soon going to be deploying iPads to all the students in grades 5-8. The program starts this fall and among the many questions that try to keep me up all night (I'm actually pretty good about only worrying in the day time) has to do with behavior. It seems that there is an opinion that otherwise well behaved students, when given a digital device, will turn into cyber bullying sext addicts determined to find new uses for the iPad both wholesome and otherwise. 

I naively believe that good kids are in fact good kids, and the "bad" kids probably just need a listening ear and firm individual in their life to help them navigate their way through school. Of course I have little to no evidence to suggest that either side is correct... just a strong personal opinion in my corner and the media pointing out where people went wrong in the other. 

To help find the truth or a solution to the "problem" of cyberbullying, sexting, and the like I began reading

Public and Permanent: The Golden Rule of the 21st Century: Straight Talk About Digital Safety: The Real Consequences of Digital Abuse by Richard Guerry.

So far, I think he has done a good job of providing a solution that I can agree with (and let's be honest I enjoy being "right"). I'm somewhere in chapter 2 and what I recall so far is that Richard's premise is we should be addressing general issues before they turn in to the hot topic of the day in our media. Cyberbullying isn't new, sexting is new, we are just hearing about it more and more because they make good copy. Richard proposes a 21st Century "Golden Rule" that simply states: Digital Activity is Public and Permanent. Simple right? Things you do online will most likely exist as 0's and 1's forever. So as a community we need to actively address broad issues before they happen, instead of specific narrow issues after they happen. 

As I read through the first two chapters I was reminded of a first day of school chapel my dad used to give. (Maybe he still does, thankfully I graduated). In it he talks about words and how it is important to think before you speak, speak in love and be Christ like in your example. Once said, words (Digital behavior) can't be taken back. To illustrate the point, he opened a brand new tube of toothpaste and held it in one hand, or placed it on the podium. With his other hand he made a fist and brought it down on the tube of toothpaste. The paste went flying out of the tube and onto a tarp. He then asked someone to put the toothpaste back in the tube. Anyone? Bueller? The point is once it is done you can't take it back. So be wise about what you say and do in person and online. 

One other take away from the book so far is assuming responsibility. A cell phone with pictures of puppies and flowers isn't a problem if lost or stolen, however, a phone with illicit photos or texts could cause the owner a bit of stress if it is lost. Richard makes a few more illustrations to suggest that an individual shouldn't worry if their phone is lost because that person shouldn't have embarrassing or incriminating media on it in the first place.

So lessons learned from the first two chapters:


  1. There is no privacy online (World Wide Web, not personal web) 
  2. Don't do things you don't want everybody to see
  3. If you do something dumb and it is made public it is YOUR responsibility. No one forced you to do the dumb thing in the first place. People who don't do dumb things don't worry about being exposed online.