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20 Questions about Youth and the Media | Revised Edition

Edited By Nancy A. Jennings and Sharon R. Mazzarella

The revised edition of 20 Questions about Youth and the Media is an updated and comprehensive guide to today’s most compelling issues in the study of children, tweens, teens and the media. The editors bring together leading experts to answer the kinds of questions an undergraduate student might ask about the relationship between young people and media. In so doing, the book addresses a range of media, from cartoons to the Internet, from advertising to popular music, and from mobile phones to educational television. The diverse array of topics include government regulation, race and gender, effects (both prosocial and risky), kids’ use of digital media, and the commercialization of youth culture. This book is designed with the undergraduate youth/children and media classroom in mind, and features accessible writing and end-of-chapter discussion questions and exercises.

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18. Snoops, Bullies and Hucksters: What Rights Do Young People Have in a Networked Environment? (Valerie Steeves)


Chapter 18

Snoops, Bullies and Hucksters

What Rights Do Young People Have in a Networked Environment?

Valerie Steeves

In 2009, the students attending high schools in Lower Merion School District in Pennsylvania were supplied with school-bought laptops to help them with their schoolwork. A few months later, sophomore Blake Robbins was called into the Assistant Principal’s office and disciplined for “improper behavior in his home.” The school provided a photograph as evidence, showing Blake sitting in his bedroom eating brightly colored candies that the Assistant Principal had mistakenly identified as illegal drugs. The photo had been taken when—unbeknownst to Blake or his parents—the school had activated the laptop’s webcam after school hours. Moreover, the photo was just one of over 66,000 photos of students that the school board had surreptitiously collected by remotely turning on laptop webcams, sometimes snapping pictures of individual students as frequently as once a minute. In Blake’s case, the school also had photos of him chatting with friends on instant messaging, sleeping, and standing in his bedroom shirtless after he got out of the shower (Robbins v. Lower Merion School District, 2010).

Blake felt strongly that his rights had been violated so the Robbins family sued the school board on behalf of all the students who had been monitored, and eventually the school board agreed to pay $610,000 in damages. But one of the key reasons why the school board settled the...

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