There are no secrets online. This proves especially tricky for people who like to play adult behind the scenes, like teenagers. As our digital and actual lives meet, teens are finding they are getting into trouble for their online behaviors and schools are the ones pulling the government in. Before the Internet, kids had more room to get away with their unruly fun--photographic evidence wasn't a click away. Now kids perform their parent-unapproved badassery, put up photo evidence using some "privacy settings," and get caught by none other than their school administrators. The digital age is redefining just how far into students' private online lives schools can go to get kids in trouble.
Not everything on the Internet is fair game for school administrators, yet. Today a Federal judge ruled that if students want to post racy photos of themselves on the Internet, there's nothing a school can do about it, reports the Associated Press. "An Indiana school district violated the First Amendment rights of two teenage girls who were punished for posting sexually suggestive photos on MySpace during their summer vacation, a federal judge ruled." The school had found the sophomore girls' raunchy MySpace photos and banned them from extracurricular activities. Gizmodo's Kat Hannaford put it well: "If a student chooses to represent his/herself as a whorebag, that's no business of their school." So teens, you want to do something somewhat embarrassing online, go right ahead--it just has to be legal.
In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that students can be disciplined for bad behavior outside of school, "so long as the school can prove the activities were disruptive or posed a danger and that it was foreseeable the activities would find their way to campus," the AP explains. For example: drinking. Teens have gotten in trouble for photographic Facebook evidence there, as NBC reported: "The players from Ward Melville High School posted photos of a night of drinking, classmates said. Ward Melville school district officials apparently saw those photos and promptly suspended the fifteen players for today's home game against Smithtown."
But sometimes schools can get in trouble for poking around on their students' Facebook profiles, as in the case of a Missouri law limits social networking relationships between students and teachers. This law's intention is to restrict inappropriate student-teacher relationships, but it might also limit school nosiness into the illicit behaviors of teens, which might be a relief to some underage hooligans.
But let's face it, no matter what their digital selves look like, behind the scenes, kids are still doing bad things. Of course, this will prove increasingly difficult for them the more their digital and personal lives merge.