Incident to Teachable Moment

It’s very difficult to avoid the Anthony Weiner incident.  All that you have to do is turn on television news or late night comedy and the story is up front.  You just haven’t been able to get away from it for the past couple of weeks.  It’s sad to see someone’s personal and professional life blow up on primetime.  But, the incident most definitely could be used as inspiration to guarding your personal digital footprint.  It’s also a prime example of how social media can be so pervasive, responding quickly to issues of the day.

If students are old enough to fully understand, I could see the following line of questioning.

  • How many of you have a cell phone with a camera?
  • What do you know about House of Representatives member Anthony Weiner?
  • Does Anthony Weiner have a Wikipedia page?  When was it created?  How actively has it been edited in recent days?
  • Can you find Anthony Weiner on Google?  How about Bing?  How about Yahoo!?  How many hits can you find?
  • How many hits does Google estimate are there for him? 
  • How many hits does Google record on him in the past 24 hours?
  • How many pictures does Google return when you do a search?
  • Now that the incident has happened, posted to the internet, and now indexed by the major search engines, can this content be removed?  How?
  • What did President Obama say about the incident and Mr. Weiner’s future?
  • If Mr. Weiner goes looking for another job, how does he explain the incident to a perspective employer?
  • If this or a similar situation happened with you, how would you explain it to your family and your friends?
  • How could the whole situation be avoided?
  • Does this incident change your thinking about posting pictures or other use of social media?

Whether we like it or not, students are daily creating and adding to their digital footprint.  It’s one thing to talk about these things but certainly another when you see the negative effects that unfortunate choices can have.  Can you turn this incident into a personal eye-opener for your students?

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