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?