Tip #17 – Encourage Responsibility In Front of Camera and Behind Camera

Sep 09

A new word has popped up in the English language that truly defines the digital culture in which we are now all living.  Sousveillance.  Unlike surveillance, in which we are watched by those from above (government, police), sousveillance is the monitoring of events by those “below” – that is, regular folks like you and me: Aunt Martha, a passing stranger, and that annoying kid from down the street that you’ve never really liked.

When cameras first came onto the scene, worries abounded over the likelihood that Big Brother would invade our personal space, forcing citizens to consider their every move lest they upset the powers above.  As it turns out, it’s the people surrounding us in our every day lives that have the greater capability to sully our reputations or applaud our heroics.  Admit it – you’ve nervously glanced around to ensure no one videotaped you tearing a strip off your eight-year-old.  (He deserved it, of course, but YouTube videos don’t typically offer context around their one-minute snippets).

I cringe when I see teenagers behaving badly in front of the camera.  I thought I behaved well back then, too.  I didn’t.  It wasn’t until I hit my mid-30′s and started raising my own kids that I fully understood how self-absorbed, overly emotional, and embarrassingly I behaved on occasion.  Thank God there is not a shred of proof.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for today’s kids.  Filmed mistakes will live for all of cyber-eternity for way too many of them (cue the sad-faced emoticon).

There is a teachable lesson here.  Teach kids responsible use of the camera.  I encourage my kids to make videos to their heart’s content.  After all, video is now one of the most celebrated forms of art whether it’s worthy of that accolade or not.  At the same time, I remind them to do so responsibly.  Does the video portray anyone in a negative light?  Is personal information exposed in the video that may put anyone in peril? Will the video destroy someone’s reputation?  Although my kids are still too young to truly understand some of these concepts, I believe the more I talk about responsible use of a camera, the more likely they’ll ask themselves these questions as they grow older.

On the flip side, my kids are reminded to monitor their actions when the camera lens is on them.  What may seem hilarious to a kid and his three buddies, can explode into an angry backlash by another (often much larger) audience.  Kids should ask themselves: Do they trust the person behind the camera?  Does he or she post every video onto YouTube the second it’s filmed?  Would he or she want thousands of strangers to see them behave this way? The great thing about acting like an ding-dong the odd time is that your few witnesses either forget about it over time or simply stop talking to you.  That’s not the case if it’s on video and reaches 331,457 views on YouTube.  Ouch.

I know I can’t prevent my kids from building a cyber-album of their journey through childhood to teenage-hood, but hopefully I can help them create one that is more flattering than embarrassing.  One in which they can look back at and laugh, rather than sob.

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Encourage Responsibility In Front of, and Behind, Camera

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