Ethics debate: How to respond to inappropriate Internet content

Lead your Scouts or Venturers in the following ethics discussion about dealing with inappropriate Internet content.


The Dilemma
Like many teens, Jaylen has a smartphone full of social apps. Among his favorites is Snapchat, which lets friends send each other photos that automatically disappear after
10 seconds or less. He and his friends love sending each other random photos of cool cars, strangers with weird hair and big-as-your-face burgers.

One day, however, Jaylen receives a photo that surprises him: an R-rated photo of a teenage girl. He thinks the girl might be Makayla from his homeroom, but before he can decide for sure, the picture vanishes. A few seconds later, he gets a text from his friend Tyler: “Pls forget that pic. My bad.”

Try as he might, Jaylen can’t forget what he saw. Now he has to decide what, if anything, he should do in response.

For Discussion
After reading the scenario with your unit, discuss these questions about Internet safety and security:

  • Do you believe photos deleted from Snapchat and other apps completely disappear?
  • How might those photos resurface later?
  • Do you believe any app or platform is safer than another? Why or why not?
  • Given this discussion, what sorts of photos should you send or not send electronically?

Next, discuss these questions about Jaylen’s dilemma:

  • Do you think Jaylen has a legal responsibility to report the photo? Why or why not?
  • Do you think Jaylen has a moral responsibility to report the photo? Why or why not?
  • Does it make a difference that Tyler apologized and asked him to forget the photo? Why or why not?
  • Does it make a difference that Jaylen doesn’t have any evidence (since the photo has disappeared)?
  • Does it make a difference that Jaylen thinks the photo might be of Makayla? Why or why not?
  • What if he knew for sure the subject was Makayla? What if he knew for sure the subject was a complete stranger?

Finally, have the Boy Scouts or Venturers decide what, if anything, Jaylen should do. Once they’ve decided on a course of action, review the Level II Internet Safety Pledge, which Boy Scouts and Venturers agree to follow when earning the Cyber Chip. (Click on for more information.)

This pledge calls on young people in situations like this to save any evidence; tell a parent, guardian or other trusted adult; and report what they’ve seen to the website, cellphone company, or the police. Discuss how the course of action they chose compares with what the Internet Safety Pledge requires.

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