Dana L. Fleming, a Boston area attorney that specialized in higher education law, is the author of the article “Youthful Indiscretions”, discusses the consequences of what young users post online and how institutions should take some steps to monitor social media usage of students and prospective employees. Fleming Opens the article by introducing social media giants My Space and Facebook. She states how making an online identity and friends is easy, as well as how these identities can be detrimental. Fleming continues by informing readers about the specifics of how easy it is to find friends and groups on these sites, and how this ease of access can lead to predators preying on young users. She then gives examples of students and potential employees losing opportunities because of what they have posted online. She illustrates how monitoring social media is somewhat difficult but not impossible. She suggests that instead of constantly monitoring all social media accounts, monitoring should be targeted. Fleming muses on whether schools and employers should limit access or regulate the information via laws and regulations.
In the article, Fleming brings to attention the hazards of sloppy social media practices, often by young users, and questions whether parents, school officials, potential employers, and law enforcement should monitor or regulate social media. First, she gives background information on two social media giants, My Space and Facebook, and describes how easy it is to sign up and make friends. She points out however that these “online identities and friendships come at a price” (paragraph 1). She gives examples of students and potential employees losing opportunities and jobs because of what they had posted online. She then details the dangers of social media to young users by presenting cases of sexual assault by online “friends”. Fleming brings to attention that “Forty-five attorneys general are pushing MySpace to adopt more parental controls and an age verification system” (paragraph 10). She suggests that college administrators should monitor and enforce social guidelines for social media users. Finally, she goes on to reiterate that what is posted online is not as privates as it may appear, and advises that schools “treat them like any other university activity, subject to the school’s code of conduct and applicable state and federal laws” (paragraph 18). Fleming appeals to ethos throughout the article with her verbiage, sources and examples. She appeals to pathos giving emotionally provoking cases of the victims who fell prey to online predators and ways to prevent these situations from happening in the future. In order to appeal to logos, she gives examples of ways that social media can be monitored and possible disciplinary action that educational institutions can do.
There is only so much credibility a law attorney specializing in higher education can attain for this subject, so, Fleming furthers her credibility vicariously through the authority of other sources. In paragraphs 1 and 2, she gives background facts and statistics on MySpace and Facebook to introduce readers into the main subject of her article, namely social media use. In paragraph 4, she tells readers what is needed to sign up for one of these sites along with what is commonly posted on these sites and the ease to which one makes “friends”; she follows this up with a statistic “Thirty percent of students report accepting “friend” requests from total strangers”(paragraph 4). Later in the article she cites attorneys general, specifically Connecticut Attorney general Richard Blumenthal. She quotes the office of student affairs at the University of Maine, though ““the administrators are not monitoring Facebook,” they may act upon any violations of law or University policy if it is bought to their attention” (paragraph 12). In paragraph 15, Fleming references “Cornell’s University’s “Thoughts on Facebook””. She touches on the advertisements targeted to young users through MySpace and Facebook, and explains the “Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act”
In order to draw in the attention of parents of students, Fleming shares cases of sexual assault throughout the country, most involving minors as the victims. In one case a “13-year-old girl from Texas … lied about her age on her MySpace profile, then agreed to meet one of her “friends” in a restaurant parking lot where her friend, a 19-year-old male, sexually assaulted her.” Her parents “blame MySpace for their daughter’s sexual assault and tried unsuccessfully to sue the company for negligence” however a “U.S. District Court Judge dismissed the suit” instead criticizing the parents (paragraph 9). The perpetrators who viciously raped and robbed Colorado man, were identified by detectives via MySpace.
Fleming took a different approach to reaching out to young social media users than she did with the parents of students; she forced these readers to take a cold hard look at the consequences of improper social media usage. One University of Chicago student learned the very harsh lesson that what is posted online is not at all private; an executive from the company in which he was going to have a summer internship viewed his Facebook profile and found that he enjoys ““smoking blunts”, shooting people, and obsessive sex” (paragraph 6), causing him to lose the internship. Another student defamed a college police officer on Facebook and was reportedly expelled. These were just a few eye-opening examples that Fleming used to grab the attention of students.
Logic dictates that actions have consequences. These actions can be positive such as if a student studies for a test, they will get a higher score. Or, the consequences can be the inverse; if that same student doesn’t study for a test, they will get a lower score. And yet, they can even be neutral. If a ball is thrown in the air, it will inevitably come down. Fleming focuses primarily on the negative consequences of poor judgment about social media use. When minors are put in danger, like the girl whose parents blamed MySpace for her sexual assault, communities and legislators feel the need to protect them. She cites Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Attorney General (paragraph 10), who wants to see the minimum age requirements for MySpace increased from 14 to 16. She states that congress introduced several bills restricting access of social media sites in schools and libraries that receive federal funding.
- Fleming, Dana L. “Youthful Indiscretions.” New England Journal of Higher Education, vol. 22, no. 4, Jan. 2008, pp. 27–29.