Warning to teens: The Internet is a public place

Two public service ads warn teens about the threats to putting photos and personal information online.

Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
Elinor Mills
2 min read

Two important, if somewhat cliche, online public service videos warn teenagers about the dangers of putting photos and personal information online. My question is why it took so long for someone to come up with an educational effort to help kids understand the privacy implications of sharing their images and lives with the world online, something many of them do every day?

The videos can be viewed on the Google Blogoscoped blog. Sponsored by the Ad Council, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Project Safe Childhood in the U.S. Department of Justice, they are part of a Think Before You Post ad campaign.

In the first ad, a blond, innocent-looking teenager in a pink blouse and jeans is leaving her school with friends and keeps getting comments from men she doesn't know--attention that quickly turns from flattering to scary. A football coach says, "Love the new tattoo, Sarah." A creepy movie theater ticket taker asks her: "Hey Sarah, what color underwear today?" And a tattooed busboy wants to know when she's going to "post something new."

In the second ad, another girl, this one brunette but also wearing a pink shirt (the color of innocence and chastity apparently) pins a sexy photo of herself on the school bulletin board. Throughout the day boys yank it down, only to have another copy reappear to the sound of a mouse click. After copies get passed around in class, the girl regrets her action and tries to take the photo down. But a new one just keeps reappearing, like an after-school special about the Internet but with a Twilight Zone flavor. "Once you post your image online you can' take it back. Anyone can see it, family, friends, anyone," a narrator says as the school janitor snatches a copy of the photo.