“Sexting” and other digital shenanigans are not just child’s play, it seems. Experts agree that education is key to reversing this trend, and that adults need to set the proper tone with their own behavior.
U.S. Congressman Christopher Lee (R-NY) resigned his office after emails and a topless picture of him were found in response to a Craigslist dating ad. In the picture Lee, the married delegate from New York's 26th District, is shown sans shirt, flexing for a self-portrait that was sent from a email account he admits belongs to him.
On the heels of the Brett Favre scandal, where the quarterback was accused of sending nude photos and inappropriate voicemails to a New York Jets employee, and the Vanessa Hudgens controversy, in which self-shot nude photographs of her were leaked online, Lee's indiscretion appears tame. While attempted infidelity is not a crime, the fact that a member of Congress used “sexting” to allegedly perpetrate the act has experts calling for more education on the issue.
“Lee's mistake is a viable reminder that educating responsible use should be a key activity in U.S. schools,” Elliot Soloway, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan and digital expert, said. “We have to start teaching early that digital is forever.”
Cathie Norris, Regents Professor at the University of North Texas, agrees.
“We want to make responsible users of social media,” Norris said. “What kids don't realize is that this is a permanent record. They don't fully comprehend the finality of hitting the send button.”
Lee released a statement expressing his regret.
“It has been a tremendous honor to serve the people of Western New York. I regret the harm that my actions have caused my family, my staff and my constituents. I deeply and sincerely apologize to them all. I have made profound mistakes and I promise to work as hard as I can to seek their forgiveness.
Tips for schools wanting to prepare students to be good digital citizens include: