About Me

My name is Spencer. I'm 23 years old, and I'm a junior at Princeton. So far college has taken me five years. I've taken time off to work, transferred to USC and come back, and learned a lot along the way.

I like to think about life and what I'm going to do with mine.

I've met a lot of people my age with the same sorts of thoughts so feel free to read, take surveys, and comment.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Internet Safety: The Internet is Forever

Phineas & Ferb may just be a really silly cartoon for children, but, as I've seen first-hand, it can teach some very valuable lessons. Amazingly, some of these lessons may even be relevant to teenagers and some college kids. At the end of an episode called "Lights, Candace, Action!," Ferb (the one with green hair) says something of quite some value:
The concept that everything you post, write, and send via the Internet stays there forever is a very real one regardless of your Facebook privacy settings and the fact that your Cloud Network hasn't been hacked. If someone had enough resources and ambition, then he or she could find just about any information about you, any private pictures you've taken or sent...essentially ANYTHING. That false sense of personal security is something that we take for granted far too often, and those things can really come back to haunt us in so many ways.

Just for the record, I'm not talking about Google recording your searches etc. We don't have to trust them, but there's really nothing we can do but hope that those companies' have some semblance of moral and business integrity. I'm mainly talking about comments, emails, pictures, and other things that we say, post, and send with minimal knowledge (bordering on disregard and complete ignorance) of the possible consequences. We cannot forget that the Internet and the people on it can be very unforgiving, mean, and even cruel. I'm not trying to imply that a majority of people are mean-spirited, but I'm simply suggesting that under the veil of user names and so-called "anonymity," people can be harsher than they would otherwise be and sending one picture or message by mistake could ruin your life.

There's one particular example that really resonates with me and this topic. I heard about it on the news a little while back, and I've remembered it ever since. I'm not going to cite an article or mention a name because the girl has gotten so much grief already and most definitely still can't escape her youthful errors. I know that it won't do much, but I'd still like to give her the respect of privacy as best as I can. For those reasons, I'll just call her Felicity (cheers to all you Day[9] fans out there).

Anyways, Felicity was a fourteen year old child (let me emphasize 14 YEARS OLD) who was very physically developed for her age. In fact, in some photos she looked as if she could've at least been mistaken for an 11th or 12th grader. As I recall from the news story, she had many photos on a private photo account online. Of those photos, there were many of her in various low cut tops, bikinis, and even more than a few on the more mature side so you get the basic idea. At the age of fourteen, her photo account got hacked, and the photos went viral all over the Internet from porn websites to photo sharing websites etc. She was subsequently verbally (and via the web) harassed and abused at school until it got so bad that she had to transfer and eventually drop out to be home schooled.

Granted, the photos were quite inappropriate for a fourteen year old child to be taking in the first place for I don't know what purpose (perhaps a boyfriend?); in fact, I would even go so far as to describe some of the even normal school day outfits as very revealing to put it somewhat lightly. However, I feel way more sorry for her than anything else. How could a fourteen year old girl possibly know the consequences of putting them on a "private" photo website? Even if she did share them with a few people or a boy, it still doesn't change the fact that a fourteen year old child could NOT know the possible consequences of such actions. How could you possibly expect her to? We don't learn about these things in school. There are a lot of parents who don't know about it because the Internet is so new to them, and they, therefore, don't teach it. In fact, most high school and college kids don't know the consequences of their actions by simply having photos of them drunk, passed out, high, or half naked on social networking sites (they will learn those consequences if they aspire to be politicians or really any high ranking executive; it probably won't break their careers, but those are things that will never be forgotten, especially for the up and coming politicians). For goodness sake, even Michael Phelps was given grief because some paparazzi took a photo of him smoking a joint... really?

As I thought about these concepts and worries, I tried to formulate a solution. It's impossible to regulate or control the Internet for a multitude of reasons such as violation of free speech and free press and the fact that the Internet is so deeply ingrained into society at this point in time. Also, to be perfectly honest, in my opinion any sort of regulation would just be...backwards. I slowly began to understand that the only way to help people avoid such deep trouble in the future would be through learning how powerful and unforgiving the Internet can be starting at a very young age. Children nowadays grow up with the Internet since they were a couple years old playing games on their parents' smart phones; therefore, the concept of Internet safety (i.e. being totally aware of its potential power and cruelty) should be omnipresent ever since children start using the Internet.

In fact, I remember learning how to use Yahoo search and basic Microsoft computer programs in about fourth or fifth grade of primary school, yet no one even mentioned Internet safety. No one taught us anything about how to wield the power of the Internet. We, as kids in the tech age, started our long voyage across the interwebs never hearing anything about cyber-bullying, privacy issues, etc. Although it may be too early to start teaching children about the consequences of the Internet in elementary school, it's better to be safe than sorry. Even now, we still aren't made aware of any aspect of Internet safety even in middle school or high school, which is a time when many children are naive and susceptible to foreign influences. That means that it's a prime time for children to get into trouble on the Internet with not only photos such as in Felicity's case, but also with sexual predators etc. Additionally, because the Internet is so new, the details can be worked out later. I will post later on with suggestions as to how we could begin to teach our children about Internet safety in school. Right now, it's an important aspect for parents, teachers, and adults in general to know about.

I think that my generation is the first to really experience growing up with the Internet from an extremely young age, and as with all new technology, there's a pretty strong learning curve for society as to how to handle and adapt to it. However, from the next generation onward, it is absolutely vital that changes be implemented and children are made aware of the power of the Internet starting, at the very latest, in middle school.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Addendum to Sex Education Post

Firstly, let me make something abundantly clear from my last post. I still think that sex education is a vital thing for everybody. Learning the "ground rules" of sex and safe sex is extremely important and can be a potentially life altering aspect of life that should not be taken lightly. Between pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and statutory rape, there are many risks that are easier to fall into than one might think. Nevertheless, I do believe that much of our time in these so-called "sex ed" classes is wasted; so much so that most students completely check out during that entire period of the day for most of the semester.

Let me revise my suggestion of half hour seminars for the entire school and suggest perhaps less frequent and much smaller classes that really resonate with students (resonate being the key word here). Forget all those student old sex ed movies or having some older person lecture us about responsibility. Let the students run the floor by having debates about accidental (and even malicious) rape, alcohol abuse, and discussions for how to deal with such situations. Have former students come in and share. Bring in both the alleged victims and alleged assailants so students can get a full view of the circumstances. It's important to get students to relate to others' situations, and they never will unless they hear it from kids just like them. Students should know what all other people's thoughts and opinions are about these sorts of situations. It will help them to understand and be more open to new and extremely different ideas. For example, I think that rape is rape regardless of the situation, but I certainly have met people who believe that it can be the girl's fault for a multitude of reasons.

No political meaning here, just a funny image about "other types" of sex education policy.

It's critical for students of both gender to recognize and form their own ideas rather than being lectured to all semester. They simply need a push in the right direction. For example, it's important for students to see that many of those offenders aren't looking to hurt somebody; it's a situation in which things escalate far beyond what's considered right or moral, where someone inevitably gets hurt and wronged, and, although not always the case, someone must be punished for. Contrary to what you might think, there are many instances of rape victims being punished, harassed, and ostracized at schools for bringing cases forward that either give the school a bad name or mess with sports teams' rosters, etc.

Also, seeing as these scenarios are very closely related to alcohol and drugs, then why not bring in alcohol poisoning and how to treat it etc. Teach students about practical situations such as drug overdoses or drinking and driving etc. Don't just tell us about it, but let us debate about it. Make sure that we don't forget it. If people get more involved and have a decent debate or hear stories from students just like them, then they are more likely to remember. In fact, some of the few things that I remembered from seminars like that in high school were when guest speakers or older students came in to talk. It was very rare, but those are the only sessions that I really remember. For example, we once had a police officer (someone's father) come in to tell us about what to do if we were pulled over by the cops. He answered all these questions and more concerning very realistic situations that a college age student might find him/herself in. What are our rights? What forfeits our rights? What do we do when we get pulled over? How do we react? Can our car be searched? What do we do when someone pulls a weapon on you? What do we do when we're robbed? When should we fight an assailant? How do we fight an assailant? How do we prevent getting mugged and attacked? All these questions were supplied and answer by this police officer, and I know that many of my classmates remember that day. He wasn't lecturing us, but he allowed us to talk and debate and ask many more questions. Through our involvement, he made the topic relevant to us as opposed to just telling us what to do.