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May 01, 2007

Think before you stalk, dude

This public service announcement from the Ad Council is supposed to educate the MySpace generation about the importance of protecting their personal privacy online. That's a worthy goal. These days, managing your reputation online is an important aspect of street smarts.

Unfortunately, this ad does nothing to empower kids to stay safe. Instead, it sends the message that girls who are being harassed by adults brought their misfortune on themselves.

The ad shows a girl called Sarah silently enduring public harassment from a series of progressively older and creepier strangers who have been reading her webpage.

Predictably, the Ad Council's message is "Think before you post, little girl." Just once I'd like to see a campaign called "Think before you stalk, dude." Or:  "Just because a minor posted this  doesn't give you the right to throw it in her face, creepy adult."

I'm especially disturbed by the scene where the school coach yells "Loved your tattoo, Sarah" as the main character walks by football practice. In real life, such a coach would be fired for harassment.

Why is the AC making it seem as if clear-cut sexual harassment is a natural "consequence" of posting personal info online?

This campaign is obviously supposed to help minors avoid adult sex predators. It's irresponsible for the AC to present the image of a student suffering in silence as men catcall and harass her.

The take home message is straight out of Ann Althouse: If the internet becomes your scarlet letter, it's your own damned fault.

The irony is that this message is probably supposed to be aimed at boys and girls--but it's backfiring because it's sending kids, especially boys, the message that it's okay victimize people who are indiscreet.

I can think of lots of funny and effective tropes ways to drive home the importance safeguarding one's privacy online. Why is the Ad Council stooping to such crude, sexist propaganda?

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» Other People May Be Reading This from Windypundit
Lindsay Beyerstein links to an Ad Council ad that's apparently trying to encourage kids to be careful what they post online. You can see it for yourself , but to save you time, Lindsay's description will do: The ad shows a girl called Sarah silently en... [Read More]

Comments

In one scene, a school coach yells, "Love you new tattoo, Sarah!" in front of the football team.

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First and formost I would have to ask: What the hell is a school-age girl doing with a tattoo?

Then I would have to ask: Where the hell are her parents?

I rule my house with an iron fist, and my kids are pretty darn well behaved. The computer is in my office and they can use it but I moniter everything they do on it!

The statement "Anything you post online, anyone can see" is false.

MySpace has lots of options for the level of privacy.

The ad should say, "use your MySpace privacy options."

But Dave, if a high school coach yelled "Nice tattoo!" at your daughter, you'd want to kick his pervy ass, right?

Lindsay, luckily I have been blessed with two boys.

You can't put me in that position because if I had a daughter(My boys even) there is no way I would allow her / them to have a tattoo until they are of legal age to do it without my consent. Now I know the first comment will be what if they got one without your knowledge. I would first go to the tattoo shop with my attorney and make them pay for half the removal costs, the investments in my childs name would pay the other half.

Then the punishments would be doled out!

Yeah, this ad is sexist but also sexist against men. The ad could simply be viewed as saying being indiscreet will result in harrassment because you can't expect otherwise from men in general.

Modesty, decorum, privacy. All lost traits. Exactly what message, what ad campaign would help restore them and influence both youth and adults they were admirable aspects of a person's makeup? Spend 15 minutes watching BET. It's wildly popular, has high ratings and has a say in the conduct of millions of America's youth, especially African-American youth. The message? Shake your tits and ass for the camera. Dress scantily and physically flirt with men and you too can lay about a mansion's pool, tool around in a Bentley and live the good life doing nothing more than being eye candy for thugs and drug dealers. Every generation decries the deplorable state or their youth. I fear current concerns may be the most well founded and deserving yet.

That's certainly true. If I were to pick one social attitude as the primary impediment to the kind of PSA you're looking for, I'd almost certainly go with the unreconstructed second wave view that treats all unwanted and inappropriate sexual aggression as a hate crime with a presumed misogynist motive.

If a network actually aired any PSA suggesting that potential stalkers could be rationally dissuaded, there would be immediate negative reactions from people thinking it trivialized the problem and perpetuated the idea that such behavior is "because of sex" rather than because of some highly superficially political antipathy to women.

P.S.--Latest Department of Education figures show 43% of African-American youth leave school before achieving high school graduation. That's a lot of tits and ass shaking gonna be going on to make up for the lack of eduaction. And a lot of drug dealing, too. I don't think the drug dealing will make it on to YouTube though. Tits and ass? Probably.

"But Dave, if a high school coach yelled "Nice tattoo!" at your daughter, you'd want to kick his pervy ass, right?"

I do not have girls either, but yes, I would want to kick the guys ass if it were my daughter. Hell, I have a 16 year old cousin who is very cute and I almost kicked my 32 year old friend's ass for leering at her at my wedding!

That being said, I do not think it is child abuse. Lude, inapproiate, and conduct not becoming of an adult, not to mention an authority figure. Definitely worthy of a kick in the ass!

Steve Duncan and aeroman: Great points!

Actually, the theatre guy's comments about the panties and the creepy busboy are much worse than the coach!

"But Dave, if a high school coach yelled "Nice tattoo!" at your daughter, you'd want to kick his pervy ass, right?"

___________________________________________

Let me be 100% honest, if I had a daughter and that happened yes I would WANT to deliver an ass beating. Since I got out of the service I have been in 1 fight and hurt the guy pretty bad. Recognizing that I could potentially kill someone if I let my anger get the best of me I have strayed far from confrontation as I could.

What WOULD I do. I would confront the coach in the Principles office. Then I would quietly whisper to him away from anyone's view that if it happened again he would just vanish like Hoffa did!

Why is the AC making it seem as if clear-cut sexual harassment is a natural "consequence" of posting personal info online?

This campaign is obviously supposed to help minors avoid adult sex predators.

I think they are just choosing a more realistic approach. So even if the coach is not shouting it, the idea is to remind naive kids that even your coach could see extremely personal details. Not just your friends or who they think will be looking. By considering different audiences out there, people who are not stalkers or harrassers, just people following personal links that you might know. Yes, a coach could follow personal links and find your tattoo picture and have an opinion. Maybe kids know this when posting, but I bet a lot innocently don't think fully of who could see the personal pictures online, not just perverts but people they might prefer not seeing.

Aeroman, the "Think before you stalk" slogan is facetious.

I'd prefer an ad where it was clear that non-salacious, but personal, information was being used against the child victim.

This ad sets the Sarah character up as a teen temptress/exhibitionist. At least, that's how a lot of people seem to be reading her.

However, we don't know whether she's an exhibitionist or just a kid who doesn't realize that her age-appropriate online interactions with her peers are potential fodder for perverts.

The real safety issue in social networks isn't exhibitionism, it's the misconceptions about privacy. Sure, there are some people who really want to flash their scrotes or tits at the entire internet. But there are vastly more people who enjoy hanging out online with their friends. Everyone's going to say stuff to their friends that they wouldn't broadcast publicly.

You could do a hilarious series of ads featuring situations where the main character is oblivious to the fact that other people can here what he's saying--i.e., shouting your ATM password across a crowded restaurant, gossiping at the urinal without checking whether there's anyone in the stalls, screaming secrets into a cellphone walking down the street. The message is that you've got to be careful who's listening online, too.

Lindsay Beyerstein-

The message of this Ad Council ad is that girls shouldn't upload photos of themselves in their underwear.

Regarding your suggestion that they instead that do an ad with a character "screaming secrets into a cellphone walking down the street. The message is that you've got to be careful who's listening online, too."

Exactly what behavior which people engage in would they hopefully change after seeing such an ad?

Just once I'd like to see a campaign called "Think before you stalk, dude."

I see your point, but I would think it would be easier for an advertisement to impact the stalkee than the stalker. If you're a stalker, you're pretty far gone already, and I doubt an advertisement is going to make you go, "wait...you mean I'm acting like a creep? I had no idea!"

It's a tough problem: do you try to reach the unreachable (but blameworthy) nut case or do you try to reach the reachable (but blameless) victim? I can understand why they pick the latter...but I agree with you about its unspoken message.

BTW, I killed flash so I can't watch the PSA; I'm inferring its contents from your post. Apologies for any wrong assumptions.

Great post, Lindsay. I have two daughters, one a teen and one a pre-teen, and it's frustrating, the notion that I have to train them to be paranoid because the male adults and teens around them are not expected to be responsible.

Lindsay is right: this shouldn't have been hard at all. Lots of people in our society have worked very hard over the last few decades to let children know that they do have a right to their own boundaries, and if an adult, ANY adult, crosses over a certain line they can and should take action to protect themselves. The idiots who came up with this PSA have brought about the necessity for another one to counteract its implied message.

The message of this Ad Council ad is that girls shouldn't upload photos of themselves in their underwear.

Actually, the ad doesn't say that she did that. The theater guy asked "what color underwear, today?". She may also have written in her blog about what clothes she was wearing that day -- and it's common for teen girls to talk about coordinating underwear colors.

However, the comment from the coach does indicate she posted a picture on line.

LauraJMixon-

What was your advice?

Lindsay -

Your post reminds me of that scene from American Pie where the kid sent the video link to everyone in the school directory instead of just his friends.

Laura -

There are just so many people you can thank, I believe it to be the decline of morality in our nation that is the root cause.

anony -

Between the coach's tattoo comment and the theater-guy's underwear comment, I think the Ad Council was trying to imply that she uploaded a photo in which she was in her underwear and a tattoo on her butt was visible.

But I guess one can interpret the ad to mean that she blogged about her underwear, if that is how you interpreted the Ad Council's message.


Eric, I think the real safety issue on social networking sites is that users may assume they have a lot more privacy than they actually do.

Everyone tells their friends things that aren't for public consumption. Let's say the girl was chatting with her girlfriends on MySpace about underwear shopping. If these young friends don't know how to manage their privacy levels, they may be letting the entire internet listen in on their virtual pajama party.

We all realize that bystanders might be able to hear our end of the conversation if we're talking on a cell in a public place. We may not realize that when we think we're just showing our vacation pics to our friends on FaceBook, interlopers might also be watching.

I think this ad should be directed at parents. A message long the lines:

Why aren't you doing your job damn it!

Dave writes;
Since I got out of the service I have been in 1 fight and hurt the guy pretty bad. Recognizing that I could potentially kill someone if I let my anger get the best of me I have strayed far from confrontation as I could.

Doyle;
Sounds like you are in a lot of pain. Kids may not be, depends, but what your landscape of emotions is like may not be well matched to someone else especially a kid. Lindsay's example I think reflects upon that idea. Harassment is imposition of unwanted attention usually associated with strong emotion drives.

And the debate revolves around how intense feelings manifest themselves in social relationships. How do we link up emotion intensity in ways that does no harm.

I don't like tattoos myself, in that I think a fixed and life long image is not suitable in a fast changing society where 'fashion' or group solidarity shifts in new directions over night and leave a tattoo exposing ideas suddenly gone wrong. That's different from exerting control over a kid. Whatever way a kid goes off playing in traffic the best sort of structure to exert control to not get them killed being reckless is about how people connect best. Intense feelings tend to make unstable perhaps dangerous or injurious and tenuous connections and that is what Lindsay is trying to prevent happening. That's what harassment is.
Doyle

Doyle -

I posted that in response to Lindsay's post about "If that were my daughter"

Pain no - more responsible now than when I was a soldier yes.

When it comes to this kind of stuff I think they need to go to the source and that is the parent. The parents need to safe gaurd their children and teach them to make responsible decisions. I love every minute spent with my boys.

A fine example: While walking through a park last weekend with them the oldest ran over and picked up some trash and put it in a trash bin. An older couple remarked about it and he said: "Thank you sir, maam" as he walked back to me. He is 10 years old. The couple sat there with the bigest smiles watching us walk by.

Now I ask you: Where do you think he learned things like respect for land and adults? From his parents that is where.

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