The Common Sense Rule - Do Not Brag about Criminal Activity

I want my students to use social media in the classroom, but I want to teach them to be smart about what they post. One - I want my students to be good citizens who change the world for the better. Two - I want their voices to be powerful so that our world will become better. As such, I teach my students to follow some basic rules that help differentiate personal journals from public posts. One such rule is

Do NOT post anything in a text message, social media comment, picture,
or blog post that will get you arrested.

The Mama Rule should cover the above statement. No mother wants their child to be involved in criminal activity. Few mothers think that it is acceptable to vandalize, drink underage, sell drugs, steal, and ruthlessly beat another person. Most mothers would be horrified that their children would then boast about their criminal actions online. These actions are wrong - why brag?

According to the Wilson Law, New York Police made 103 arrests in June 2014 "largely on the strength of thousands of social media posts by alleged members of rival gangs, documenting an ongoing turf war." These rival gang members somehow did not believe that social media posts can get you arrested in the United States and other countries that embrace free speech. However, as stated on Lawstuff Australia, "Any public comments, pictures or videos you post online can be used against you." The government website goes on to warn you that "even if you use an anonymous user name, this may not protect you."


A self-proclaimed artist vandalized the natural beauty of ten National Parks and then posted pictures to her Instagram. Outraged readers scanned the pictures posted on Modern Hiker and Reddit to determine the exact location of the vandalism, which helped National Park Service determine the extent of the vandalism for possible prosecution. Maybe some good will come out of this woman's posting of criminal activity.


Under-aged drinking is a serious problem. One way to combat it is to watch teenage Twitter feed, which is not private and can be used track parties. reports that four teenagers were arrested in September 2014 for an underage drinking party after bragging about the party on Twitter. The other teenagers were released to the custody of an adult.

Text Messages

A drug dealer wanting to sell his product, mistakenly sent a text message to an Orleans, Massachusetts Detective in October 2014. NECN reported that three men were arrested and the drugs were taken off the streets.


ABCNews reports in that a thief broke into a house in June 2014 and stole cash, a credit card, a checkbook, keys, and a watch. Sometime during the robbery, the thief succumbed to the urge to use social media. He logged into his Facebook, wrote a post, and forgot to log out.


According to WPTV, a teenager ruthlessly beat an autistic sixteen-year-old. He then posted the video to YouTube as though he did a "good thing" that deserved "Likes." The only good news about this incident is that video led to the arrest of the abuser. At what point did the abuser think that beating another person was the right thing to do?

Possible Upside

The only upside of these social media posts is that these criminals were arrested before further harm occurred. We know that harmful drugs were removed from the streets, but other benefits may emerge. Maybe the vandal will learn that natural beauty should stay just that - natural. Maybe the parents of the under-aged drinkers will convince them to be responsible (one can hope). Maybe the Facebook thief will be so embarrassed by his actions that he turns his life around. Maybe, just maybe, the YouTube abuser will learn that it is wrong to hurt others.

But more realistically . . .

The Mama Rule states that you should never post anything on social media that you wouldn't want your mama to see. In this case, the Mama Rule can also be extended to "Don't post anything that would keep you from having Christmas Dinner at home." Turkey in prison doesn't have the same satisfaction as your mama's homemade turkey with all the trimmings.

* * *
Student Privacy: Four Rules to Teach Students How to Draw the Line Podcast.
  1. Privacy, Paper Blogs & Meaningful Commenting
  2. The Right to be Forgotten
  3. The Mama Rule
  4. Review - Private Journal vs. Public Blog Chart
  5. The Lincoln Rule
  6. The Common Sense Rule - Do Not Brag about Criminal Activity
  7. The One Exception 
  8. The Positive Google Footprint Rule - Your Resume


Popular Posts