A police officer gave a presentation at an assembly at Windsor High School in Colorado. His objective was to teach the kids about Internet safety, and to do this he showed the students how posting pictures on Myspace can be dangerous.

Students and parents at Windsor High School are outraged after a Wyoming police officer doing a presentation on Internet safety scrutinized individual students’ MySpace pages. . . . The officer, John F. Gay III of the Cheyenne Police Department, picked out six or seven Windsor High School students’ MySpace pages and began to criticize photos, comments and other content until one student left the room crying.

The students say he made very inappropriate remarks, claimed he had sent the student’s pictures to an inmate in prison, and launched into a discussion about the crimes that result from stalkers finding photos on Myspace. The officer disputes most of the allegations made by the students, and the principal and other faculty members back up the officer, so there is still some question over what actually happened. Regardless, the officer admits to some allegations, and in my opinion, these admitted statements should have been left out.

Well-intentioned, but poorly executed. The student he humiliated DID immediately delete her Myspace profile, but how could this have been presented better, without such blatant scare tactics? Realistically, this has the potential to be a good way to show kids just how public their open Myspace profile is, but the officer was just winging it. He needed to use better judgment, and the support of more parties. We can probably learn a few things from this officer’s mistakes. A few ideas come to mind:

  1. This should have only been done in front of a small group of students, such as a single classroom; not the entire student body in the auditorium.
  2. He could have worked with the parents, and received their permission first.
  3. He could have selectively chosen the profiles beforehand, and found some that didn’t have compromising content. Just having an authority figure pull up the public information, even inoffensive information, and showing it in front of everyone, may have driven the point home well enough.
  4. In the small classroom setting, it would be appropriate to select several student profiles, and not single any one out. Incidentally, he showed about six or seven, but that seems meaningless when compared with a student body of hundreds.
  5. He shouldn’t have dwelled too long on any profile, extracting information like phone numbers and other personal data. If the students see someone accessing their profile, they’ll immediately start thinking about what sort of content is on there. You can’t force a student to use the web responsibly, but you can show them reasons they should. Just watching an adult looking at their profile could be good incentive.
  6. An officer, someone the children have never met, was not the best choice. How much better would it have been if the person was a teacher, someone the students respect?
  7. The presenter could have ended on a humorous note by showing his own Myspace profile, with a strategically planted “humiliating” photo from his younger days.

What do you think? Does this sort of presentation, well thought-out, have potential to explain Internet safety, or is this just a case of “scare tactics” that should be avoided altogether?