“WARNING LABELS” by Tony Casson

“For I have five brothers, and I want to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.”  Luke 16:28 NLT

“Forewarned forearmed”    Cervantes – “Don Quixote”

In articles titled “A Necessary Intrusion – Part IV”, posted in July of 2012, and “A Call To Action – A Demand For An Explanation”, posted in March of this year, I outlined simple steps that could be taken immediately by Internet Service Providers to drastically reduce the proliferation of child pornography on the internet, as well as the subsequent destruction of lives and families that proliferation is leaving in its wake. The intent of those articles was to convey the message that ‘prevention’ should be the first course of action, rather than ‘pursuit, prosecution, and punishment’ which seems to be the preferred course of action currently employed by the United States Dept. Of Justice.

Taking the concept of ‘prevention’ one step farther, in an article written by Steve Marshall and posted here on May 5, 2013 titled “In knowledge Lies The Potential For Change”, Public Service Announcements (PSA’s) about child pornography were proposed and outlined. Education and enlightenment geared towards prevention was the article’s intent, and Mr. Marshall did an excellent job of writing a proposed “script” for just such an announcement.

These steps, used together, can go a long way in raising awareness and PREVENTING harm rather than simply waiting and watching for harm to be done before responding. We are awaiting action to be taken on these suggestions, and expect that sooner or later those who are responsible to this nation’s citizens will do the right thing and implement them.

But there are other disturbing issues and trends that have troubled me recently and, after considering the matter carefully, I have come up with additional suggestions which can not only further contribute in a POSITIVE manner in the fight against child pornography, but will also take steps to battle a new and extremely frightening trend that is developing in America: The utterly tragic suicide of teens and other young men and women following the public internet posting of recorded sexual activity, some “consensual”, and some not. There is also the matter of the destruction of the lives of those individuals who insensitively, recklessly, foolishly, and ignorantly participate in the public humiliation of the victims, as well as the damage done to the families of ALL involved.

In the not-too-distant past, in California, a 15 year old girl went to a party where she became intoxicated and passed out. While she was unconscious, three 16 year old boys, who were supposed to be her ‘best friends’, undressed her, sexually molested and assaulted her, and used a cell phone to record the assault. Those pictures were then posted where they were viewed by many others. Eight days later, the girl took her own young life when she hung herself because her ‘life was over’. Her parents were not aware of the pictures and the assault until after their daughter was dead.

A mother and father lost a beautiful young daughter whose entire life was stretched out before her because of insensitivity, ignorance, a lack of awareness, and this county’s unwillingness to teach our children the proper way to live their lives and respect the lives of other people.

In addition to the life of the young girl being lost, the lives of the three boys, who were all arrested, have all been unalterably changed for the worse. Their parents, as well, will suffer now as a result of the actions of these unthinking individuals.

Many of us are also familiar with the story of the college student who leaped to his death from a bridge following an ‘innocent practical joke’ in which his sexual encounter with another male was secretly recorded and publicly viewed via the internet by many others. Those responsible were arrested as well, but the worst punishment they will face will be the permanent knowledge that their insensitivity and thoughtlessness led to the death of another human being.

These are just a couple examples of the preventable deaths connected to the shame and humiliation that comes as a result of the misuse of technology in the hands of immature and irresponsible individuals. They are just a couple examples of many that have occurred, and they will not be the last ones unless reasonable steps are taken to raise awareness amongst the young ABUSERS of cell phones, computers, and the internet in this country.

Most cases of the abuse of technology do not result in death, but the very sad reality is that these types of incidents are occurring with alarming frequency and regularity.

In a very recent incident which occurred in a city not far from this institution, a 16 year old boy went to a party where there was alcohol. There is no evidence that the boy was drinking, but the 15 year old girl that he met WAS. They went upstairs together and went into a bedroom of the house and engaged in what he later claimed was “consensual” sex. At some point, someone opened the door to the room without their knowledge and took photographs which were later posted on the internet and viewed by many before they were brought to the attention of the girl’s father, who happened to be a member of the Baton Rouge police department. He confronted his daughter who claimed she had passed out from drinking and had no recollection of the incident which resulted in the boy being arrested for rape and, at last report, was being charged as an adult.

No matter the outcome, there will be NO “winners” in this incident, in any of the others in the past, or in those yet to unfold. One thing is almost guaranteed: After each and every incident of a nature similar to these, newer, tougher laws and restrictions on ‘sex offenders’ will be proposed and passed. Let us look, instead, to what we can do IMMEDIATELY to PREVENT further incidents from occurring in the first place.

To address the growing trend towards the inappropriate use and ABUSE of cell phones, computers, and the internet, I suggest a multi-pronged approach that involves the use of ‘warning labels’, computer tutorials, PSA’s, and public school classroom instruction or seminars. None of it is complicated, all of it is quite easily, inexpensively, and readily doable, and every single step has the potential to save lives or prevent them from being irreparably damaged.

WARNING LABELS – I propose that a law be passed (ironic that I actually WANT a law passed, I know, but read on) requiring the presence of ‘warning labels’ on all packaging and in the instruction manuals for all new cell phones, computers, tablets, or any other device that can record, store, download, or transmit via the internet, digital images or videos. These messages should make the purchaser/user aware that the recording, transmitting, sharing, downloading, or possessing of pornographic images of anyone under the age of 18 is a federal crime and is punishable by (insert current penalty information) years in prison. In addition, the recording of sexual activity without someone’s knowledge or permission, as well as the recording of the sexual ABUSE of someone who is incapacitated in any way REGARDLESS OF THEIR AGE is a violation of state or federal law and is punishable by imprisonment in a state or federal prison. Convictions for any of these crimes also requires the individual to register as a sex offender for periods up to, and including, LIFE! These messages should carry the seal of the FBI or US Dept. Of Justice with the emphasis on using technology LEGALLY and RESPONSIBLY.

COMPUTER TUTORIALS –  All new computers, laptops, tablets, and any other device that has internet capabilities and can be used to produce, store, download, or transmit digital photographs or videos should be required to have a noncancelable tutorial that displays the same information as the ‘warning label’ upon initial start-up. This tutorial, like the Terms Of Service, must be electronically ‘signed’, and cannot be ignored.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENTS –  A variety of PSA’s featuring the parents of children who have committed suicide as a result of the abuse of the devices listed previously would lend powerful testimony to the dangers of insensitive and irresponsible use of these devices. The parents could be shown standing next to a poster-sized photo of their child and could relate the story of their death and the reason for it. These PSA’s would be extremely effective when aired on popular youth-oriented TV stations such as MTV, VH-1, etc.

MANDATORY ANNUAL CLASSROOM INSTRUCTION – All schools receiving public funds should be required to have a once-a-year mandatory ‘Electronic Device Awareness’ class for grades 6-12. these classes would involve a combination of audio-visual material utilizing PSA’s, the information found on ‘warning labels’ and in computer tutorials to introduce, reinforce, and remind students of the responsibilities of using all of the previously mentioned electronic devices in a safe, sensitive, and LEGAL manner. The classes should be no more than 30 minutes long and be required once each year for the grades mentioned.

Well, folks, there you have it. Are these miracle cures for a disease that is eating the moral core of our society? No. That lies with God. But these are simple, sensible, and inexpensive ideas that, when combined with the ones proposed previously by Steve Marshall and myself, could go a long, long way in contributing POSITIVELY to a safer, saner, more responsible Internet and technology environment for this nation’s children, and anyone else who utilizes the vast array of devices available to us today.

Please join me in encouraging the leaders of our nation to give ALL of the ideas presented here the serious consideration they deserve.

Thank you for your time, and may God bless you and your families.