Published Online: October 3, 2001
Published in Print: October 3, 2001, as Media

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Irresponsible Computing

A middle school boy in overalls tells viewers: "When I go to [the University of Virginia], I want to open e-mail attachments from strangers and get a virus."

In the video, available on the Web as part of the university's campaign for responsible computer use, another boy says, "I want to post obscene messages on the Internet."

Other children, their faces framed by the classical architecture on the university's Charlottesville, Va., campus, make similarly disturbing pronouncements. "[I want to] commit fraud using someone else's online identity," says a girl.

Thousands of new University of Virginia students saw the black-and-white video—a parody of a nationally televised commercial for the job-search company Monster.com—during orientation week this past summer.

University officials said the tongue-in-cheek format effectively conveys the campus policy on responsible computing—and they have made the 60-second video available on the Web for K-12 schools and other colleges and universities to use.

"It's cute, satirical, it appeals to students, it gets the message across in a short period of time," said C. Roxanne Chandler, a computer programmer at the university who produced the film last spring for less than $4,000.

Students who enter the University of Virginia from high schools across the country tend to take computer-use issues lightly, said Sandra G. German, a manager in the university's information technology and communications department, which was responsible for the production. "Students are our hardest audience—they have so much going on," she said. "It was so important to do something that will catch their attention."

The actors in the video—middle school students from the Charlottesville area— talk about their plans for other ill-advised activities with computers. Says one boy: "I want to hack into government computers and go to federal prison."

The text at the end of the video poses the question: "How much trouble can you buy with your computer?"

The video is available on the Web at www.itc.v irginia.edu/pubs/docs/RespComp/videos/home.html.

—Andrew Trotter atrotter@epe.org

Vol. 21, Issue 5, Page 6

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