Imagine: A student aide walks into your sixth-period class, holding a little pink slip of paper — a notoriously bad sign. He gives the paper to your teacher, who proceeds to frown at the name in disbelief. This is a good one, you can tell. Someone in your class (perhaps one of those goody-two-shoes types) has done something wrong, and you are desperate to find out who the culprit is.
Your eyes eagerly scan the room for any hint of nervousness, any sign of guilt. Finally, the teacher reads off the name and the whole class goes silent … it is your own. You walk down the halls of your high school; never have they seemed so long. Your heart palpitates and pounds so loudly that you are sure students in the neighboring classes can hear you pass by. As your sweaty palm grips the door to the principal’s office, you wonder: What could you have possibly done to deserve such a consequence?
As it turns out, your principal had visited your house, gone through your things, and confiscated a photo album as well as a journal containing notes you had written to your closest friends. The contents of these items were under thorough review, for your principal had deemed them “inappropriate” and “disgraceful.”
If the above actually occurred, could you imagine this tremendous disregard for privacy? Well, this is exactly what it would feel like if students were punished for their MySpace.com pages.
What administrators neglect to understand is that MySpace.com is not a place for soliciting oneself to the masses. Rather, just as its name implies, it is something like an online room or “space” that only you have complete control over. With this area, you can add decoration in the form of layouts; you can play music of your own choosing; and you can control who is allowed to enter your domain through privacy settings and the scanning of friends.
Therefore, if we would never accept the idea of being punished for the posters we hang up in our rooms, why should we be punished for the pictures we post on our MySpace page?
It is true, however, that many students use their MySpace too freely, demonstrating little concern for their own privacy. Although administrators should not reprimand children for the things they have chosen to put on their own personal space, students should be more aware of the availability of their personal information.
Rather than punish us for unwanted behavior, schools should use positive encouragement to convince us to keep strict privacy settings, especially when we may have questionable material on our page. After all, not many students may be aware that colleges and employers often use MySpace.com as a means of exploring the background of an applicant.
Therefore, it is actually in our best interest to use strict privacy settings and be cognizant of the appropriateness of posted material — and it would be beneficial for the school district to educate kids on the matter. This would not only assist the students, but it would encourage them to trust the educational system rather than loathe it for a lack of propriety toward personal information.
Ultimately, MySpace.com is a place where self-expression and individualization are encouraged, and such freedom and creativity should not be inhibited at the whim of school administrators. The responsibility of the schools, however, is not to terrorize students, but to encourage them to use caution when posting items or allowing people to view their page.
After all, if nobody but your friends can see your page, you will not need to worry the next time your sixth-period teacher reads the name on that little, devastating pink slip of paper.
Genevieve Hayman is a senior at Green Valley High School.ESSAY CONTEST
Genevieve Hayman of Green Valley High School is the winner of the Review-Journal’s Students Speak Out competition for November/December. Her entry was chosen from among about 150 compositions that addressed the question of whether it is appropriate for school administrators to punish students for what appears on their MySpace.com pages. She will receive the $200 first prize. Honorable mentions go to Cait Belcher of Foothill High School and Jackie Smith of Centennial High School, who will each receive a $50 prize.