INVITE students to reflect on the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
ASK: What do you think this saying means?
Students should consider that a complex idea can often be illustrated with a single image, and that context plays a role in how an image is interpreted.
ARRANGE students in groups of four or five, and distribute the Unintended Consequences of Sharing Student Handout, one for each student.
INSTRUCT students to read the “Drunken Pirate” article, either silently or aloud (taking turns). Alternatively, assign the reading as the previous night’s homework. The purpose of the article – about a young teacher in training whose career is affected by a photograph on a social networking site – is to encourage students to understand how oversharing information online might affect their privacy, and to grasp the importance of context around sharing things online.
DEFINE the Key Vocabulary terms context and tag. Explain that tagging can be done on many social networking sites without the permission of the person who is being tagged.
INSTRUCT students to discuss the following questions in their groups, with one group member writing down their responses.
ASK: Do you think Millersville University was justified in disqualifying Stacy from earning her teaching degree because of her profile page? Why, or why not?
Encourage students to think about the question from different perspectives, such as that of Stacy, her friends, school officials, community members, or parents of Stacy’s students. Remind students that Stacy is an adult, and that for the purpose of this exercise, they should be less concerned about judging her behavior than about considering issues of online privacy.
ASK: How would the situation be different if the context of the photo were taken into account? For instance: What if the caption of the photo was not “Drunken Pirate,” but “Happy Halloween” or “My friend forced me to wear this pirate hat”? What if a post accompanying the photo said that it had been taken at a child’s birthday party and Stacy was drinking punch?
Students should consider that the context – including where a photo is placed and how it is labeled – affects how others perceive it.
ASK: What if Stacy’s friend Joe had posted the picture of Stacy without her knowing it, and tagged her with the “Drunken Pirate” caption. Does the fact that Joe posted the picture change the situation? Why or why not?
Students should realize that in this case, even though Joe would be responsible for posting the picture without Stacy’s permission, Stacy might still have to face negative consequences.
ASK: Does Joe have a responsibility to ask Stacy before he posts (and tags) a picture of her? Do other people, including strangers who come across the photo online, have the responsibility to check with Stacy before they tag or repost the photo? Why, or why not?
Students may say that it depends on the picture, but they should clearly recognize that pictures or tags that have any chance of being harmful should never be posted without the consent of the person in the photo. If they aren’t sure, they should always ask.