Friday, June 23, 2006
When Weird Begets Wired Threats
Austin, Texas prides itself on being weird. One can hardly drive down the freeway without seeing bumper stickers proclaiming
- "Keep Austin Weird"
- "Keep South Austin Weird"
- "Keep The Edwards Aquifer Weird"
- "Keep 459 North 3rd Street Weird"
- "Keep My Border Collie Weird"
The first incident of wired deviance involves an Austin ISD art teacher busted (sorry, bad pun) for having nude pictures of herself posted to the internet. According to the Austin American Statesman story:
[teacher Tamara Hoover] and her girlfriend, photographer Celesta Danger, said they don't know how students found the pictures, which have been removed from the site.
"The first 18 pages of my site are of other people," Danger said. "They really had to look. It's really bizarre."
Well, Ms. Danger, one doesn't really have to look very hard, just scroll through your Flickr.com pages or search on "Tamara Hoover". And you think it's bizarre that people look through all the pictures you post? What were you expecting when you posted them to the interconnected, global, electronic network with an audience of millions? Furthermore, this business that they did not know how the students found out about the pictures is open to debate. Says the Oak Hill Gazzette, another Central Texas paper,
According to two sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, the students found out about the website through Danger herself.....That last sentence makes me chuckle, since Ms. Hoover and Ms. Danger have made many public statements about the case, including a story in the Austin American Statesman titled, "Austin art teacher tells her side". Why tell your side when your lawyer advises you to keep it quiet?
...when asked why she would tell students about her website when she knew nudes of Hoover had been poster there, she declined to answer on the advice of attorney Jay Brimm, who has asked that the couple not speak about the case until it's resolved.
For her part, Ms. Hoover has some issues with moral discernment
"I'm not endangering my students. . . . I've never advertised this to my kids. It's a private matter."Ms. Hoover, get out of the 1950's. The world wide web is a giant billboard. When the pictures are posted to a public, searchable website, that's de facto advertisement and no longer private. Furthermore, this digital dalliance could mislead students down a false and dangerous path. Teachers are models of morality (or immorality) that students will invariably emulate. If the teacher chooses to engage in homosexual behavior, which is inherently dangerous, in her own residence, behind closed-doors, that's her business. But putting it on display for the whole world to see is a de facto endorsement of the behavior and sends two bad messages to the students: Homosexual behavior is good and exposing personal information online is good.
The second point was recently proven tragically wrong in Austin. A 14-year old, Travis county girl was allegedly sexually assaulted by an older man from nearby Buda who she met on MySpace.com. Of course, this in no way absolves the young man for perpetrating the alleged crime. If found guilty, I hope he receives a severe penalty. But the point is that the teenagers should not be encouraged to expose sensitive, personal information online, where dangerous predators lurk. And teachers, along with parents, set the example for the students.
However, in the Weird City, that does not seem to be happening in this case. On one hand, we need to educate kids to expose less of themselves online; on the other we have the teacher exposing too much of herself online. Such is the state of moral rectitude here in Topsyturvydom.
Parents (and I'm sure at least one or two are reading this) should know how vulnerable kids are when they post stuff on the net. I dont know a single mommy or dad who would tell a 14 or younger girl to go out and stand on the side of the interstate holding a poster with all manner of vital info: ht, weight, home address, phone number, school grade and location etc etc
A parent would say that we simply have no idea what type of sicko could be cruising by and might just abduct the young girl on the side of the road. No parent would let a girl do that, yet parents are still letting naive kids put it all out there for ANYONE and EVERYONE. That is putting young women at risk needlessly
Kids with video mini cams are also creating all sorts of filth on the internet. With those livecast cameras anyone can become a porn star.
What I'm wondering is:
Where were the parents when she was online, not to mention on the phone? Why did the parents allow their daughter to be picked up from school by someone they didn't know?
While, yes, I agree there should be security measures taken, there is only so much that can be done by the website. The people who want to falsify information can find ways around things like that if they really want to. Parents need to take some responsibility for the lives they bring into this world.
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