Scouting magazine

A moral discussion on when to 'snitch'

When confronting an ethical dilemma, what are the limits of loyalty?

Largely unmonitored and unregulated, the Internet strikes some as akin to the Wild West. Ethically, it’s dragging us into unexplored territory.

Twitter, Facebook, and other online teen hangouts pose serious challenges for Scouts that adult leaders never imagined in their youth. Acting anonymously, young people feel bolder about tossing out hurtful and unfair comments into cyberspace. But the Internet isn’t always as anonymous as it seems.

Take the hypothetical case of David, a student in a school district where his mother serves on the school board. Three of his classmates create a Web site openly attacking some of the teachers and students. The language is offensive and explicit, the graphics disgusting. Remarks about several students and teachers predict that a gay student would die of AIDS and suggest that a married teacher is having an affair.

Several weeks before, by way of an offhand remark in a conversation, David had discovered the identities of the students who created the Web site. The three immediately pressured David not to reveal their names, and he agreed. At one time, David was close to one of the three students. But that friendship had faded.

Now, the principal discovers a program that enables him to identify each person visiting the Web site. He is asking students to come forward with the names of the creators of the site. If no one does, the principal plans to question each student who visited it.

David might be the only student who knows the names of the three boys who created the site. He can lie and say he doesn’t know, or he can break his promise not to tell. Either choice, he believes, will result in disaster. What should David do?

For Discussion

In discussing this dilemma, Scouts will observe that David faces a tough decision either way. Remind them that although an ethical choice sometimes can involve a choice between two “rights,” it also can be a choice between two “wrongs.”

Start by asking:

If you’re looking for additional scenarios for future discussions, try one of these:

For more information and discussion questions on this ethical dilemma,

Copyright Elkind+Sweet Communications/Live Wire Media. Reprinted with permission. Copied