Friday, April 2, 2010

Teachable Moments - Teh Interwebz

This is a cute story and a teachable moment:

A month after the pampered pooch's birthday bash, Ravelo, a recent college-grad from UC-San Diego, posted the photo on Facebook to give her friends a good laugh.

"I thought it was the funniest picture I've ever seen," she tells

That day, John Lipari, a friend of Ravelo's, saw the hilarious photo online during an evening class, posted it on, and catapulted Riley into overnight viral superstardom. Countless blogs and Web sites, including The Huffington Post, caught on to Riley's winning grin, branding the Bichon Frise-poodle mix as "The Birthday Dog," "Smiley Riley," and the "Stoner Dog." One Web site even Photoshopped the smiling puppy into the arms of President Obama.

Cute, right? That "smile" is undeniable and simultaneously cute and creepy. Show it to your class and have a good laugh over that.

And then, some food for discussion: where did this photo originate? Let's look at that again...

A month after the pampered pooch's birthday bash, Ravelo, a recent college-grad from UC-San Diego, posted the photo on Facebook...

Teachable moment alert. She posted something on her own Facebook page for her friends or family to see. Even if her photo album security was set to "Only Friends" (most people's are actually set to "Everyone" and they don't even know it. Use Facebook but know what you're using!), this could have still happened. Why? Because a friend saw it and cross-posted/copied it to an entirely different website. He took her photo and posted it somewhere else, in a more public forum, making it accessible to international. I'm not trying to beat this guy up because clearly, it's a cute/harmless/adorable picture.

My point here is: what if it wasn't? What if it was, say, a child? I would feel comfortable sharing pictures of my child with friends, but I would not be happy with that picture getting shared with the entire Web. What if it were a potentially embarrassing picture? Again, something you wouldn't mind sharing with friends/family, but wouldn't want to expose to say, your boss, potential employers, clients, or in-laws. It happens, even from well-meaning friends.

I think that latter part is what might speak to teens. With the recent hot-button issue of sexting and other incriminating-photo-sharing, teens think: "Well, if I send it to my BF or GF, I can trust him/her because s/he's my boo." They don't entertain the possibility of "What if we break up? Will I want him/her to still have that?" because they never get past the former question (oh, but we won't!). This story is an excellent example of a well-meaning friend who shares your personal life with the Web at large.

Maybe kids wouldn't get this one, either. But it just really struck me as a teachable moment, and I think it's a good reminder for teachers and students alike to just be aware that what you post online always has the potential to be exposed to the world at large.

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