Teens, The Internet, and the First Amendment


Organizations don’t like it when you complain about them. Especially when you do so in a public manner–online. The matter of First Amendment rights in the online realm has been a hot topic for debate for several years now, and things aren’t cooling off.

As Helen A.S. Popkin mentions, the debate may actually be heating up. High schoolers and college-age students have a tendency to say their school sucks. It’s what they’re supposed to do. In retrospect we eventually learn to cherish the days of absent responsibility and channel the anger that thrusts us into independent thought. This even appears to be particularly popular in the U.S. But for some reason the Internet has brought about a plethora of new issues with which to discuss one’s rights to the First Amendment.

Call it cyber-bullying or chalk it up to adolescent defamation. The Internet has an odd impermanence about its ability to archive and retrieve data due to its sheer size, but putting your hatred for a school or a faculty member out into the world [wide web] can easily come back to haunt you.

We can talk about the First Amendment until we run out of oxygen to breath, but I’d rather leave that up to the courts. The fact remains that saying bad things about people and organizations can hurt their feelings and damage their pride. You can expect them to retaliate. In many cases, they retaliate with disciplinary actions, long-standing negative affects on their academic records, and lawsuits.

How ironic that high school and college students get to learn, first hand, about the ultimate case of payback when it comes to the expression of their First Amendment rights. Seeing the growing pains of self-expression play out on the Internet merely reminds me of the social strains brought about by new technology, its assimilation, and its eventual acceptance. This is all particularly poignant as it deals with new forms of communication, complete with widespread access to these new forms of communication, and the cultural implications that lie therein.

In the end, however, I think it’s important to remember that there’s nothing really new under the sun. Everything we’re dealing with has a core issue that has little to do with the technology itself but of human’s ability to coexist within a healthy social structure. There’s no reason for parents, faculty, attorneys or judges to scratch their heads at teenage social networking nonsense. Even in its early years, my mother recognized the fact that the Internet was yet another way for her daughter to communicate with the world, and that included the world’s individuals. Therefore, the same principles apply, regardless of one’s offline or online status.

It will still be a challenge, but any attempt to get this message through to teens and young adults will be gratuitous in the end.


9 thoughts on “Teens, The Internet, and the First Amendment

  1. Great post, I think what it boils down to is picking your battles, not saying things just because you can, and being prepared to to deal with the consequences of your actions. Which are all lessons that transcend the digital realm.

  2. I enjoyed reading your post very much.

    I am VERY new to blogging and am only just starting … and reading a thought provoking article like yours is quite inspiring.

    I am very interested in the impact of social networking on young people, generational changes, education and how we communicate.

    Thank you for your post and I will continue to read many more of your writings.

    from Australia,
    Marge 🙂

  3. That first amendment graphic is awesome. I found it on a Google search of “first amendment” and it brought me to your little post.

    I searched for the source of the graphic.

    Were you aware the CBLDF is the “Comic Book Legal Defense Fund”?

    Kinda takes the patriotism out of the graphic. Still, they did a great job on it. Very clever.

  4. Hello Kristen,

    I was wondering if you created the image of the First Amendment? It is an awesome rendering of the First Amendment. I am a journalist and would like to use it in some of my communication. Understanding the laws and rules of copyright protections and respect for journalists, I wanted to ask your permission.

    I understand should you decline.

    -Barbi Walker

    • Thanks for asking! I actually can not take credit for this image. Unfortunately the original source is no longer online so I can’t even direct you to that website either! At any rate, feel free to use the image. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s