By Jennifer Geller, Savvy Cyber Kids Contributor

The ‘world-wide’ expanse of the web and our digital worlds means we can reach out and touch someone – pretty much everyone we know and then some—almost effortlessly. One might say thoughtlessly.

As a digital parent you have likely offered your kids sage advice about social media behavior, reminding them that before they post, to remember to stop and think about the consequences about what they are liking, posting or sharing. Maybe you have offered real-world examples that speak directly to them:

No doubt, these are important lessons for our kids to understand. You want them to respect the power of the internet. You need your kids to cultivate their own digital footprint carefully and to recognize that whatever they put out there – no matter if years have passed — could come back at haunt them, maybe as they are applying for college or a new job.

But with this focus on ‘acting right’, a powerful trend has emerged, where we are turn our personal sense what is right and wrong onto others, and then use all the tools of the digital age to inflict shaming and judgement from others.

Social media has created an army of would-be defenders of all that is right in the world (in their opinion), self-nominated police who catch your every move and submit their one-sided fury to an anonymous audience, whose typing-weaponized fingers are ready to strike down anyone.

It’s easy to argue that these folks deserved the ire of the internet and that calling them out is a public service, a wake-up call for society that will shine on light on racism.

I don’t disagree. Their actions are hateful. And maybe they got what was coming to them. The lawyer lost his lease to his professional office. Permit Patty and the police officer both lost their jobs.

But once we start recording our neighbors’ every move, editorializing about them and casting judgement if we view their behavior as toxic, where does it stop?

Personal politics aside, are we really ok with damaging the livelihood of another person for silently and harmlessly expressing her mood about a politician? I’m talking about the woman who was biking on her personal time and flipped off the presidential motorcade. Unbeknownst to her, she was photographed. That image went viral. She was identified and, ultimately, was fired from her job.

Then there was the music enthusiast who used her music platform to offer some criticism of Nicki Minaj’s latest album. Agree or disagree, her comment was not offensive. But spurred on by the artist, a literal army of fans, called Stans, unleashed their fury on this women. She and her daughter were threatened, online and by phone—and the woman lost her job in the music industry.

Did you see the video of a women in a Denver airport who allowed her dog to use the floor as a bathroom? I mean, gross, obviously. But do we want the power of Big Brother to analyze our every move?

I have to admit, when I recently saw an image of a women who posed with a giraffe she had killed, proudly posted by her, it made me sick. My feelings toward her were less than generous. But since she chose to post the image, maybe the outcry of hate she received makes more sense because she put it out there? What is interesting about the giraffe image is that it was years old and mysteriously re-surfaced, likely to fuel an agenda that was counting on the internet to call foul. The internet, and our quickness to react, can make pawns out of any of us.

Here’s the problem…once the internet fury is unleashed, there is no calling it back. There is no leader who thoughtfully considers the not-so-great from the truly-awful and moderates the impact of what comes next. It’s a free for all. And you could be next.

And then there is the story about a woman who tried to charmingly use Twitter to tell the story of strangers on a plane, you know it—#PlaneBae and #PrettyPlaneGirl. The storyteller used photos to document her amusement and ultimately the strangers on a plane were identified. The female stranger was not amused. “I did not ask for and do not seek attention. #PlaneBae is not a romance—it is a digital-age cautionary tale about privacy, identity, ethics and consent.”

She is right. Just because you have in your hand a phone that can document the personal moves of any stranger around you, should you?

It’s back to the golden rule for me. It’s time to encourage our kids to apply the same rules for relationships in real life to their online experiences. If we don’t talk to strangers, maybe we shouldn’t be so comfortable talking about strangers. At the very least, the way we talk about strangers should emulate the very righteous goodness we claim to represent.

Read More About Internet Judgements:

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