Posted Online: March 22, 2013, 2:50 am

Fast technology delays moral, ethical ramification thoughts

Comment on this story

By Leon Lagerstam,

MOLINE -- Some teens and pre-teens don't spend time, in the split seconds it takes to send inappropriate text messages or emails, to consider morals, ethics or ramifications of their actions, school administrators say.

Reports that local high school boys were trading nude pictures of female students via cellphone "obviously" concerned and disappointed Moline school district superintendent David Moyer and high school principal Dan McGuire.

They said it also leaves them searching for even more ways to educate students and parents about the appropriate use of technology.

"I'm not a psychologist, so I don't know if we can say for certain or can make any inferences, or draw any conclusions from a moral or ethical standpoint over this," Mr. Moyer said.

"But I believe something bizarre may be going on psychologically that's causing young people to act so spontaneously and not realize, until later, the magnitude," he said.

"At the time they're doing something, I don't think they would take the time to argue it from a moral or ethical perspective," Mr. Moyer said. "I don't think they realize what they are doing and don't understand how inappropriate it can be, until they happen to be the ones who get caught."

"We are trying to educate them to make good decisions and to pause before they send things," Mr. McGuire said. "A lot of people have expectations of the school dealing with such issues, but we are all responsible, communitywise, for the well-being of our kids."

"We will sit down and talk to the police department and brainstorm and see what else we can do from a student-education and a parent-education perspective," Mr. Moyer said.

However, technology seems always to be ahead of anything people try to do to combat problems, he said.

In February, Moline High School offered a "Stop Cyber Bullying" program offered by Illinois State Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office, Mr. McGuire said. Many other assemblies and presentations also have been held at the elementary and middle schools.

He said students, parents and teachers also start each school year by signing "appropriate-use-of-technology forms."

Yet, when it comes down to it, no one, not even police, really know what else can be done to prevent such abuses, Mr. Moyer said.

"It was not isolated to Moline High School," Mr. McGuire said, referring to distribution of the inappropriate photos. "A large part of what we were dealing with was from another school.

"We had a student come forward with information, but after investigating, we found no evidence anything had transpired -- nothing was downloaded or viewed at school -- so as far as there being any school consequences, we didn't see any," he said.

The matter was turned over to the school's police liaison officer, and investigated by police, Mr. McGuire said.

No arrests have been made, nor are any expected, Moline Police Dept. public information officer Detective Scott Williams said in an earlier interview.

"We found out that it wasn't just a Moline High School issue, and that it was greater than that," Mr. McGuire said. "It became more of a technology issue and more of a pre-teen/teen issue."

"Kids are kids, and sometimes they just do dumb stuff," Mr. Moyer said. "None of us are angels. I did dumb things when I was a kid. Kids do crazy things. It's part of being a kid, but we have to hope they use their heads well enough to stay out of serious trouble."

One of his first reactions to the incident was that "a lot of kids were going to be hung out to dry," he said. "I thought, omigosh, we could have a lot of kids' lives ruined over this if they got labeled as sex offenders.

"They truly didn't understand the ramifications. Kids need to understand how this stuff creates a permanent record that future employers and colleges can check; and the stuff doesn't go away," Mr. Moyer said.

Technology makes it "easier for them to do something they will later seriously regret," he said. "Kids spend so much time on their electronic devices, they're almost like another limb."

Both Mr. Moyer and Mr. McGuire have high school-aged children, so concerns about misuses of technology do hit home, they said.

"I don't think most parents really know the full extent of what's going on," Mr. Moyer said. "What troubles me the most is how some people seem to consider what happened is OK.

"Yet, you still have to be careful not to overreact," he said, when asked if stricter cellphone restrictions were warranted.

Allowing kids to bring electronic devices for legitimate educational purposes is more practical than trying to buy everyone computers, he said.