letters to the editor
letters to the editor
What is a garden?

A garden might be a food source for yummy tomatoes, lettuce and other summer foodstuffs. It might be a delight to the eyes, filled with color, texture and dreams of new flowers to come. And sometime, a garden might be a place of solace for a heavy heart.

Gardens mean so much to so many. We pour our backs into keeping them weeded, wet and wonderful. We fret over them and we love them. We work so hard, but we know it’s worth it for the joy our gardens bring to us.

And all that joy, wonder, and food source can be destroyed in a single night – by deer. In Mt. Lebanon, deer are a real problem, as they are in many areas. Something must be done to stop the destruction. I am tired of hearing that nothing can be done, as I’m sure you are. I am tired of being left with sticks where there used to be flowers and vegetables. I am tired of feeling desolate after seeing my garden ravaged. And I’m tired of throwing money out the window.

Perhaps as a group we can get officials in our areas to listen to us – to hear us. We deserve to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

And for those who would say that deer have a right to be here – I say that you must NOT be a gardener. And that is your loss.

Darl McMahon

Mt. Lebanon

Talk to teens about social media

Despite outreach from the state attorney general’s office to area school districts and countless news stories of bullying and physical assault, teenagers are still making mistakes on social media that could cost them careers, land them in jail, or worse.

The latest case involves SnapChat, an application whose deceptive promise of self-destructing photos and text messages are being countered by other applications whose sole purpose is to save the salacious or otherwise racy images.

A Bethel park High School student recently made an error in judgement by posting a picture of himself in front of a confederate flag with the words “let them hang” superimposed on the picture. The 17-year-old did it after he was assaulted by an African-American peer, after that student just left a supposed meeting on racial bullying. The male Caucasian student has reported special education needs, and it could be taken at his word that he legitimately meant “let them hang,” referring to the flags themselves, but the mired history of the flag’s use as a counter-culture symbol of a rebel or southern sympathizer leaves a plausible and convenient double-reference to people as the subject of hanging. While the altercation and the actual meaning implied are topics for the school district and the parties’ attorneys, if the student didn’t post what could be viewed as a retaliatory action, he could have been simply explaining what happened to him instead of facing a nine-day school suspension.

SnapChat, Twitter and even Facebook are all media platforms that emphasize the ephemeral over the permanent, and focus on the convenience of instantaneous access over substantive communication. What gets lost for teens is despite the fleeting feeling of a post tumbling down the timeline, those pictures and comments are often archived or otherwise saved by those you’d least want saving your data. While the government is undoubtedly cataloging and storing your data, it’s a jealous ex-flame or a vindictive rival whose wrath you should fear the most when it comes to digital payback. And the worst part is that you don’t know who could have your information once it’s sent out.

It’s naive to think parents can control their teens’ actions on social media. But educating them to be more pro-active, not less, is the key. Telling teens about social media is becoming a conversation as old-fashioned as drugs, alcohol and the birds and the bees. What parents should do is start encouraging responsible and active social media usage. Start treating social media less like a diary and more like a permanent record of an open forum: it’s okay to say what you mean, so long as you mean what you say, and know others aren’t always taking the same approach. It’s a funny feeling being left out in the digital world; that you’re not contributing to the gossip or know what’s happening to who. But in the larger picture, journalists, comedians and now teenagers can follow the practical advice of Craig Ferguson: “Ask yourself three things before you (post anything): ‘Does this need to be said? Does this need to be said by me? Does this need to be said by me now?”

Unless those three questions are all answered with a resounding “Yes,” go get the diary.