Hooper: Staying smart in a high-tech society

To prepare for the Dec. 27 year-end review on WEDU's Florida This Week, producer Gina Presson asked me and the other panelists to review the Associated Press' top stories of 2013 for the state of Florida.

From the death of U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case to the Florida's falling unemployment rate, the list proved to be comprehensive and complete.

Three stories, however, stood out more than the others, to me, because I saw a thread connecting them.

• Florida enacts a law making it illegal to text while driving, but police can only issue tickets if they pull someone over for another infraction.

• Two young girls are charged with bullying a 12-year-old girl who committed suicide, but those charges are eventually dropped.

• A Miami-Dade County man is accused of murdering his wife and then posting photos of her body on Facebook.

To me, the first story reflects our efforts to corral the awesome power of mobile technology and our continuing foray into social networking and the Internet.

The next two stories reflect our struggles at trying to corral the technology. As a society, we're still trying to decipher how to best use the wizardry of new communication.

The 24/7 influence of the Internet and social networking — and all of its impact — is the story of the year in Florida, in the nation (i.e., the problems with healthcare.gov) and the world (Edward Snowden's decision to expose National Security Agency policies).

And because the technology continues to evolve on an almost daily basis, I wonder if we will ever figure it all out.

After all, it took four years of wrangling just for the state legislature to craft a texting and driving bill that could meet with approval from both chambers — and critics say the law isn't as strong as it should be.

Of course, the necessity of the law speaks to one of our challenges. Texting and driving will continue to be a factor in court cases, accidents and everyday life even though it has been banned.

Don't believe me? Consider this: the phrase "texting and driving" has been mentioned in 281 Tampa Bay Times stories this year.

Many lessons need to be culled from the tragic death of 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick of Lakeland, beginning with a review of the laws that regulate cyberbullying. There's also a moral lesson, however, which I'm not sure many heeded.

David Stein, a resident of the Czech Republic who has taken an interest in Polk County cases through the power of the Internet, sent an interesting missive earlier this year noting that when Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd released the names of the two girls alleged to have bullied Rebecca, it resulted in them receiving even harsher insults via social networks.

To be clear, I'm not opposed to technological advances, despite my continued ownership of a flip phone. I just think we need to be wiser. I'm constantly challenging my own three children to use their smartphones to make themselves smarter — instead of texting "toats ma goats" to all their friends.

And with all the social networks, people need to realize there is no privacy when it comes to what you post. Once you hit that button, someone in the world can find a way to access it.

Privacy? These days that's limited to the bathroom and bedroom in your home — maybe.

That's all I'm saying.

Hooper: Staying smart in a high-tech society 12/18/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 18, 2013 3:23pm]

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