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4:1 Ethics

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What kinds of ethical considerations should be a factor for students using new media?

Looking at this topic, I’m thinking it has to be complex.  It has to be more complex than the ideas that are coming to mind.  But I’ve read the articles and looked into it, and am going to risk sounding naive in this post.

I argue the ethical considerations students should adopt when using new media are basically the same as those they should currently be living by in physical life.  Cyber bullying, trolling, cyber stalking, spam, theft of identity, these things all take place in the cyber arena, but have real life equivalents and existed in the physical world first, before being adapted to new media.  Interacting in the cyber realm is an extension of real life, and a lot of the dangers teenagers face in real life can be extended into the world of the internet.  And these dangers are more severe in the physical world than they are in the cyber one, as Levinson (2009, p. 170) contends, “bullying in a schoolyard or any physical place is usually more dangerous than cyber bullying, since physical intimidation is involved and can escalate into a “beat down.””  Someone being stalked in person is more dangerous than being stalked on the internet, and can also be less evasive, although it has the possibility of becoming physical and it could be argued that the ease of internet stalking could encourage and increase numbers of real life stalkers.  However, “contrary to popular belief, the percentage of single offender crimes against girls where the offender is an adult and a stranger has declined, not increased, since 1994—concurrent with the rise of internet use” (Cassell & Cramer, 2008, p. 54).

So what are the ethical considerations involved in social media?  Don’t bully people, speak to people politely and considerately, don’t talk to strangers or accept them as ‘friends’ on social networking sites, think of possible repercussions of what kinds of photos and other media you refer to, remember that what you say can be public, and don’t give anyone your bank details or your money.

Not only students, but young people and old, need to be just as considerate and ‘street wise’ on the internet as they would in day to day life.  Bullying began long before the internet was ever even thought of, it has simply evolved and is now communicated via several media.  To combat cyber bullying we need not stop students from using the internet, just as we would not keep a student at home to prevent them from being bullied at school.  We must educate them on techniques to overcome bullying.

YouTube as a stage for bullying is a slightly different and complex issue, and one that I feel must be regulated.  Regulation of this is complicated though.  As James (2008, p. 7) argues, “how can the openness and socially positive potentials of the NDM [New Digital Media] be retained while unethical conduct is contained?”  YouTube as a stage for bullying is different because the physical bullying can still occur, for example filming a fight and posting that video, but the bullying then goes further and extends to a more emotional bullying as the video is spread and seen by a public audience.   The humiliation is deepened and the opportunity to be bullied by people who didn’t see the physical fight but the video is given to a massive amount of people.  While there is little a victim can do to prevent this, apart from perhaps reporting the video and using it as evidence to press charges, action could be taken to educate the bully on the consequences.

People should be wary on the internet, just as they are in real life and our job as educators using digital media is to make sure students know the risks and how they can best avoid becoming victims.


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