Debates for teenagers should reflect the concerns of their generation. Some concerns are old as the hills, and others are things that arise from technology that never existed in any generation before. Whatever topics you choose to present to your teens, you will want something that challenges their intellect and engages topics that affect their values. Technology concerns about the Internet are hot-button issues with tech-savvy teens and are a surefire way to get opinions flying.
Many teenagers have cell phones, MP3 music players, and access to Internet-connected computers, often all on the same device. In an age where Internet connectivity allows for the sharing of data in the blink of an eye, it's easier than ever to get access to a wide variety of music and video files. The problem is that for every legitimate pay service there are multitudes of networks offering free illegal downloads. Questions to consider include "Is the Digital Millennium Act good or bad?" "Is sharing a media file any different than sharing a book with a friend or leaving a magazine on a bench? Is it actually stealing?" and "Once you have created and released something how much control do you have over it?"
Internet Privacy for Teens
Enacted in 1998, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act was established to protect the privacy of children under the age of 13. Under the act, no website could solicit personal information from users under the age of 13 without parental permission. The Internet is ever-changing, however, and in 2010, the Federal Trade Commission began to look at whether or not to expand the law to teenagers up to age 18. The consideration was in response to the explosion of social networking that teens enjoy, and gives parents access to their children's personal Web accounts. Questions to consider: "At what age does someone have a right to privacy?" "Can teens be trusted to manage their own online profiles and personae?" "How much right do parents have to protect their children?" and "Do you have a right to privacy at all on something that is as public as the Internet?"
Internet Kill Switch
In the event of a national emergency, should the leader of a nation have the power to gag electronic communication? In 2011, this scenario was played out in Egypt during a political upheaval. The idea of an off-switch for the Internet is as old as the Internet itself. The question is whether or not political leaders have the right to exercise this power in a nation with protection of free speech. Things to consider: "The President has other powers of communications censorship that have been exercised in times of war; is this any different?" "Does free speech protect the Internet more than newspapers and television news?" "What are the ramifications of shutting down the Internet?" "Are there legitimate reasons that the President might shut down the Internet?"
Is the Internet Killing Empathy?
The Internet has provided access to images and video with greater ease than even television did. With wireless Internet access and Web-capable cell phones, we have exposure to lurid imagery of violence and cruelty, both real and make-believe. One only has to look at any website's comment pages to see instances of people using anonymity to be cruel to other strangers. With this anonymity and constant exposure to desensitizing imagery, is the Internet killing human compassion? Questions to consider: "Are generations that came after the Information Age more or less compassionate than those that came before?" "Are there any ways that the Internet brings people together, rather than pulls them apart?"
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