Lesson #1: Be a REALLY good citizen if for no other reason than your past WILL come back and haunt you.
In the reality of the internet, the most important lesson we can teach our children is this — The past is not gone and forgotten. You had better be a good person. Or else, the world will find out.
It might take time but eventually, someone will uncover your “transgressions” (insert; “mistakes,” “bad decision” or “terribleness”), it will gain traction and it will affect your present life. This can be both a good thing (i.e. jerks in life might just get their due) or a bad thing (i.e. that youthful “bad idea” that should be forgotten? It isn’t it and your adult life just might be judged by it.)
It was different than when I grew up. I grew up in a small town and life felt very far away from the city. The idea that any story, stemming from a local resident, would hit the big leagues of a national newspaper was laughable. There wasn’t anything newsworthy about the local dump, the mediocre football team or the one-and-only drugstore that overpriced the popular “Nerds” candy for $1. It was doubtful that anything about my childhood would be remembered by anyone.
The basic tenants of life are the same: Everyone makes mistakes. Many have weak moments of bad judgment. Some are downright greedy and knowingly dumb. But how the world deals is different. Internet news (& news blogs) are here and the lessons to our children need to change with their existence. Everything is now accessible. The past never dies on the internet. Your actions, now and then, can spread, within minutes, across thousands (millions!) of eyeballs. The new parenting lesson — Be good. Or else everyone is going to tweet that you’re not.
What got me thinking about this today? Just two of my morning news read, of course.
The Porn Actress turned Science teacher lost her appeal for her job back because porn on the internet makes it too easy for her students to find examples of “her previous life” and thus, affect her ability to do her current job. Porn is a tough issue and there’s no cut-and-dry answer. But I was struck by the court’s ruling that because something is NOW so readily available on the internet (when, 10 years ago, it wasn’t), it will dramatically affect your present-day options.
As for the $200k bathroom, the news story spread to 15+ news sources within 41 minutes of its initial launch. Even though it happened during President Bush’s run, it’s news now. Don’t ever think you got away with that bad decision, kids (or adults). The internet can bring back 1997 in two clicks of a keyboard.
Let’s be sure our kids understand the new rules of citizenship, viral internet news and personal reputation. Be super good. Be super diligent and thoughtful. Be super. How hard can that be?!?