Chances are good that your Scouts spend a fair amount of time using the Internet whether it is texting, tweeting, browsing, or using social media to share and pass on information to friends. Sometimes the information that gets passed on is inaccurate or false.
Only a few days ago there was a surge of tweets on Twitter about a rise in thefts of Tide from stores. Eventually, this ended up being broadcast as the truth by major media outlets. Later when the facts were checked with local law enforcement agencies, the story turned out to be inaccurate. There are some isolated instances of thefts of Tide for resale on the black market, but both retailers and law enforcement denied that there was a dramatic upsurge in theft of the detergent. While probably harmless to most of us, this illustrates how easily inaccurate information can spread and how many people will believe it.
We tend to trust what we hear from friends and pass it on. (We see something and act on it almost immediately in many cases.) But do we know whether or not what we are sharing is true? Could it damage or hurt somebody? In most cases we are missing a critical step in good Internet citizenship – thinking before acting on information. We need to give some thought to whether the information is reliable, verifiable, and accurate. And we need to think about the consequences of our actions. That’s the point of the graphic above – think before acting on information.
The Scoutmaster Minute
Not too long ago a Scout that we’ll call Willy was walking home from school with one of his friends. They were talking about Willy going to the Troop’s planned campout that weekend. Willy wasn’t sure he’d get to go because his mom might have to work late and he’d have to watch after his kid brother and told his friend that. Later that friend texted his pals that Willy was afraid of going and making excuses because he was a geeky fair weather camper. Pretty soon just about everyone in school had gotten the word that Willy didn’t have the right stuff or the stomach for a real adventure. Jokes were being made about him and everyone pretty much agreed that Willy was pretty lame, he couldn’t even do Boy Scout stuff. No way was that goofy Willy going to cut it and everyone knew it was a fact.
When the time game to pack the cars and head out, the Scoutmaster asked if everyone planning to go was there. The kids laughed and joked around that yup, all the real Scouts were there. That’s when the Senior Patrol Leader asked what about Willy, I know he wanted to go. There were jokes and chuckles about Willy making excuses – he wouldn’t be coming. That didn’t sound right to the Senior Patrol Leader, so he called Willy and asked what was up. Willy said he was coming, he had been watching over his kid brother, but now that his mom was home he was on his way. Thanks to the Senior Patrol Leader’s checking, the Scoutmaster agreed it wouldn’t hurt to wait up a few minutes for Willy to get there.
Later that weekend the Troop came across a search and rescue effort in the mountain’s woods. A little boy had strayed from a campsite and was lost. The temperatures were dropping and a blizzard was expected that night. The Scouts asked if they could help and joined in the search for the lost child. By the end of the day they were tired and worn out and most were wishing for some hot food and a rest. Well all except for Willy that is. He wanted to keep at it and the rest of ’em were too embarrassed to ask to quit if Willy was still wanting to help. So they kept at it for awhile longer and then to everyone’s relief they heard a whistle signalling the boy had been found. There coming out of the deep woods was Willy and a rescuer with the little fellow in tow. The older rescuer had trusted Willy’s instinct about where the boy might have gone and they had found him. This was a real lucky stroke because that night the snow fell hard and the wind howled in the storm. That little boy might well have frozen to death that night, if he hadn’t been found.
There were a lot of embarrassed looks that night in the mountain cabin around the warm fire with the wind rattling the windows. You see almost all those fellows had known Willy wasn’t coming and didn’t have the right stuff because they had got caught up in passing on what they had heard and didn’t know the real story. Thankfully, they had a really good Senior Patrol Leader that thought about things and checked out the story instead of going on what everyone “knew” about Willy. What a difference it makes to think about what you hear before acting on the information. It is a simple as Observe – Think – and then Act and that’s why Willy was there to find the little lost boy.