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Think Before You Shoot

by on April 09, 2015 6:15 AM

We live in a miraculous age with rapidly-evolving technology advancing in enormous leaps and bounds almost daily.

The challenge of our time is how do we adapt and master each new step?

Certainly technology has made things so much easier.

New Apps help us do everything from counting calories, to booking flights, reading news from the other side of the globe and keeping us in touch with distant friends and families.

I even have an App that allows me to pre-order from Chipotle and then avoid waiting in line to pick it up.

This is good, cool stuff. But one of the great lessons in life is that "you never get anything for nothing" and that is certainly true with the smartphones we have with us at all times.

It's almost as though all of us keep our phone holstered to our hip, ready to be drawn at a moment's notice. With that technology in the palm of our hands have we accurately recognized the threat that it can pose to us?

What do we do when we draw out that phone?

The truth is this: The smartphone is a loaded weapon. Social media apps are ammunition that can shoot your life into total chaos.

We need to remember our phones and apps have the potential to do enormous damage to ourselves and others around us. It is a tool that, much like a loaded gun, should be handled with respect only by those who can fully grasp the power it holds.

That is a lesson we need to learn and certainly one that needs to be taught to so many young people who seem to get phones at younger and younger ages. If you view a smartphone as a loaded weapon you'd be very careful where you pointed it. You'd be even more careful before you stepped in front of it.

There are questions that should be asked by anyone with a smartphone.

If I point this at someone or something would I be willing to let the whole world see the images I am about to video or capture?

Would I want to be responsible for these images being seen around the world?

If I step in front of a smart phone am I willing to have whatever behavior I am engaging in, or what I am wearing (or not wearing) be seen by anyone anywhere on the planet?

That is the reality. A few months ago celebrities' nude photos were hacked from their phones and shared on the Internet. Certainly that is an invasion of privacy. While we have the right to expect that our privacy will be protected, the reality is that privacy is a thing of the past. If you don't want potentially compromising photos hacked, there is only one sure way to make sure that happens ... never pose for them.

It goes without saying that the behavior being captured is the root problem of the social media age, but for the sake of this column we'll assume that is a given. This column is focusing on the threat of the technology involved.

The threats when people use social media to post on Facebook or Twitter or anything else are no different. Once you load the chamber with your social media bullet and press send/post/tweet there is no calling it back. Ask yourself if what you are putting out there is something you want linked to you for the rest of your life.

Many of the biggest mistakes people make with their smartphones happen because of the influence of alcohol. As I wouldn't carry a gun around on a night of heavy drinking, I also would not want to be wielding a smartphone in the same situation.

If someone invents an app requiring owners to blow into a breathalyzer before turning on any social media apps or the phone's camera, they'd be printing money. Every parent would buy one before sending their kids off to college.

College students need to know potential employers will scour the internet for images and postings by potential hires. Just one bad image or one offensive rant is all you need to scare away a job offer.

Ask some of the people involved in the latest college flaps over photos or videos that were posted if their lives haven't been damaged. Ask students in high school who face legal issues because they texted compromising images or messages and see the consequences they are facing.

Years ago it was a lot harder to get into trouble. There was no way to post pictures that could be viewed by thousands of people, and no way to self-publish your worst thoughts any time you wanted.

Today's technology affords young people the ability to make mistakes with real-world consequences that will follow them for many years. It is the world we have created.

To adapt it is important to understand the risks associated with the technology of this brave new world. A failure to understand the potential consequences can have long-lasting and devastating outcomes.

 

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State College native and Penn State graduate Jay Paterno is a father, husband and political volunteer. He’s a frequent guest lecturer on campus and at Penn State events and was the longtime quarterbacks coach for the Nittany Lions. His column appears every other Thursday. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JayPaterno
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