Having worked for a couple of large cable networks with robust legal departments, the need to have proper releases when recording anyone anywhere for entertainment purposes was drilled into my head. When I speak to young people I often emphasize that they should think the same way when it comes to recording and posting images or video of their friends -- or at least remember to ask permission and respect any friend's wish not to have their images posted online. It's just proper etiquette or netiquette. Unfortunately, too often this just doesn't happen. Young people are so used to pressing record, uploading and sharing, they don't think through the consequences of posting or texting these images.
And as we've seen recently, the consequences can be grave. Posting explicit photos or recording/streaming someone engaging in sexual activity is much different than old school note passing. The viral nature of the Net amplifies both the number of people who can view this media along with the emotional impact on the person in the images or video.
The nature of online communication and technology in general creates a sense of distance between people. Since you often can't see who you're talking to and you can be anonymous or create false identities, it's easier to feel as if there aren't any consequences to online actions. An ongoing study conducted by Harvard researcher Carrie James revealed that today's digital youth "lack moral and ethical judgment as well as consideration for others when surfing the Web."
Organizations like Common Sense Media have made teaching digital ethics a priority and have distributed a free curriculum to middle schools across the country. MTV has also made digital harassment amongst teens its number one priority as well with "A Thin Line."
Instead of just focusing on youth engaged in the actual bullying as bullies or victims, we should also be encouraging online "bystanders" to speak up and speak out. Just as in offline bullying, there is usually someone either with the person who hits "post" or is the person who receives the "sext" or even the person who rates or "likes" the images online. This is part of being a good digital citizen -- it's not just about learning not to bully online, it's about intervening when you see it happening by flagging or reporting any explicit media that feels like it was recorded without the person's knowledge to the service where it was posted, telling a school counselor after receiving a "sext" or speaking out to peers and calling cyberbullying what it is - uncool, hurtful and dangerous. We need to change our digital culture so that it's not "ok" to press record.