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About Ben Garrett

Ben Garrett is a journalist and web designer from East Tennessee's Cumberland Plateau region. He and his wife, Melanie, reside on the edge of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area outside Oneida, where he is the editor of the local newspaper and she is a fourth grade teacher. The couple have two children, twins Toby and Rachel, and a mutt dog, Scooter, who thinks he's a pedigree. Views expressed here are the author's and none other. Contact: bengarrett at highland dot net.

Avoid coaching search trolling: a guide

Avoiding coaching search trolling: A guide

Rumors are flowing at a feverish pace as Currie prepares to enter his second full week of searching for Jones’ replacement. With so much information — and misinformation — flowing, fans who are leaning on every “insider” messageboard post and every tweet are being trolled with increasing frequency. On Saturday, as Tennessee prepared to host LSU at Neyland Stadium, Peyton Manning went to Calhoun’s on the River to eat. Among his dining party was an unidentified man who just happened to look like Jon Gruden — from behind. Someone tweeted out a photo of the back of the Gruden look-alike’s head, and Vol Twitter spontaneously combusted.

By | November 19th, 2017|Categories: Football|0 Comments

Ten things that stood out about Tennessee’s 30-10 loss to LSU

By | November 19th, 2017|Categories: Football|0 Comments

Vols put full-court press on Gruden

Tennessee appears to be pursuing Jon Gruden. Hard.

By | November 16th, 2017|Categories: Football|0 Comments

Snow watch: Thanksgiving, maybe?

Snow Watch:

If I were looking for snow, and I didn’t have to have accumulating snow to appease me, I’d look for the period right around Thanksgiving or Black Friday. The models may not really be showing it at the moment, but the potential is there.

By | November 14th, 2017|Categories: General, Weather|0 Comments

Tennessee coaching search centers on Gruden, Mullen

Jon Gruden, Dan Mullen emerge as favorites for Tennessee coaching vacancy:

There are still those who scoff at the notion of Jon Gruden being named the next head football coach at the University of Tennessee.

“There should be a constitutional amendment against writing ‘Jon Gruden’ and ‘Tennessee’ in the same sentence,” CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd tweeted Monday.

But, more and more, those haughty guffaws are turning to nervous chuckles.

No one likes to be wrong, after all. Especially journalists. And if Gruden, by chance, were to wind up coaching here, there would be a few of them with egg on their faces. Like Dodd. And Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel, who wrote Sunday that “anyone who mentions Jon Gruden in any capacity should be charged with journalistic negligence.”

By | November 14th, 2017|Categories: Football|0 Comments

No room for silence

Fans won’t tolerate silence:

As Tennessee’s level of play in the SEC has gone from bad to worse this season, frustrations have mounted in Big Orange Nation. With their team now at 0-4 in conference play, and having scored touchdowns in just one of 16 quarters in conference play, UT fans have worked themselves into a lather over their coaching situation. And amid what they perceive as silence from the corporate offices of the university’s athletics department, fans are beginning to aim their vitriol at athletics director John Currie with increasing regularity.

In fact, if a growing number of Tennessee fans had things their way, Currie and head coach Butch Jones would join the ranks of the unemployed alongside one another. Immediately, if not sooner.

By | October 25th, 2017|Categories: Football|0 Comments

Jeff Flake’s fate illustrates Republican quagmire

Let Arizona Senator Jeff Flake be a lesson to all: you can’t stand against President Donald Trump and be a good Republican.

Not in this political environment.

Flake announced Tuesday that he will not seek re-election. In reality, it was his only opportunity to save face. He was going to be beaten in his party primary in a few months, which would have been an unusual and embarrassing blow to a sitting senator.

His announcement was also a stunning indictment of the Republican Party, and of America’s current political mood.

A story in The Atlantic headlined Flake’s announcement like this: “The Arizona senator gambled that voters would choose civility and responsible governance over Trump. On Tuesday, he folded.”

Hours before Flake’s announcement, he told the Arizona Republic, “There may not be a place for a Republican like me in the current Republican climate or the current Republican Party.”

So how did it get to this point for Arizona’s junior senator, who once enjoyed solid approval ratings? Who, at the tender age of 54, was supposed to be an up-and-comer in the Republican folds?

Simply. Trump happened.

Flake was an original Never-Trumper. Once Trump occupied the White House, Flake became one of his staunchest critics. It cost him support. Ultimately, it will cost him his job.

With Trump, there is no room for dissension. It’s why the president has openly hinted at forcing news outlets critical of him to close, why he has warred with members of his own cabinet amid unprecedented administration strife, and why he has thrown several of his own party’s ranking members of Congress under the bus — including Flake and Tennessee Senator Bob Corker.

Trump and his cohorts — like Breitbart’s Steve Bannon — want lock-step admiration, not free-flowing ideas. Ignoring the long-term welfare of the party that sent him to Washington, Trump openly detests the Republican establishment. So any time a member of his party dares to voice an opinion that differs from his own, Trump takes to Twitter in an effort to take them down, 140 characters at a time.

The Trump-Bannon machine was on the verge of ousting Flake, forcing what is essentially a resignation. His surprise announcement came just weeks after his Tennessee colleague, Corker, did the same.

Corker was hardly a Never-Trumper. He supported the president’s campaign, was once considered a candidate to join Trump’s cabinet, and had openly supported the president on many occasions. But he was also one of the least reluctant Republicans to criticize Trump when criticism was warranted, and that placed him in the president’s crosshairs.

Corker’s criticism of Trump ratcheted up in August, when he first said that the White House is in a “downward spiral” and later said that Trump “has not demonstrated he understands the character of this nation,” nor the stability and competence “that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.”

Trump fired back, with his usual insult-laced tweets that seem to handle the truth in a questionable manner. Less than a month later, Corker announced he would not seek re-election.

 

That’s two down, and you can’t help wondering who’s next.

But, first, it’s important to step back to Flake. Trump — with Bannon’s compliance — managed to sabotage the Republican primary process by turning a significant swath of the conservative electorate against the so-called establishment. Now, Bannon is setting his sights on overthrowing the establishment at the congressional level . . . this time with Trump’s compliance. Bannon does the dirty work on the ground while Trump plants Twitter land mines.

That’s what makes Flake’s exit particularly noteworthy. He is hardly an establishment Republican. As The Hill noted Tuesday afternoon, “Jeff Flake was the Tea Party before the Tea Party was cool.” Lest we’ve forgotten, it was Flake — as a Republican congressman during the George W. Bush era — who forced a reduction in the pork projects that the GOP had grown fond of. He sought a seat on the House Appropriations Committee because he wanted to end earmarks — not because he had pork projects of his own that needed funding. So steadfast was he in his fight against pork projects that he lost the endorsement of three of the five mayors in his district when he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2013.

In other words, Flake represented much of what Trump would later claim to support — without the anger and vitriol. (“It’s not enough to be conservative anymore. It seems that you have to be angry about it,” Flake told CNN on Tuesday.)

But because he dared to criticize the president, he is soon to be the ex-senator from Arizona.

Corker was a rising star in the Republican Party, once a dark-horse candidate to be Trump’s vice president pick and rumored to be a potential future candidate for the White House. Now he, too, is in the process of exiting politics.

And make no mistake: the Republican Party is weaker without the likes of Jeff Flake and Bob Corker. Long after the star-power of Trump has faded, the GOP will need the steady guidance of seasoned veterans like the two of them.

An even more pressing concern? The Republicans’ Senate majority is tenuous. The GOP holds just 52 seats. It’s unlikely that a Democrat will win election in Tennessee, but one certainly could in Arizona, which increases the likelihood that Republicans lose their Senate majority next year. And if Trump thinks he’s having a difficult time pushing through key pieces of legislation now, just wait until the opposition party has the strength of a congressional majority.

This is the Republican quagmire. Trump’s popularity hovers just above the pits, with somewhere around six in every 10 Americans opposed to him. His chances of re-election in 2020 are frail, based on that alone. Progressives are never going to agree with Trump’s policies, but it isn’t his policies that have dampened his approval rating so much as his vitriol. His self-aggrandizement, his self-centered approach and his withering attacks on critics are hallmarks of a narcissist who finds himself at odds with independents and even moderate Republicans. Yet, his conservative base remains loyal enough that any effort by members of his party to rope him in will end just like Flake’s case, and Corker’s. The president will label them dissidents — in Trump’s eyes, you’re either for him or against him, party be damned — and his supporters will break out the tar and the feathers.

In a nutshell, Trump’s erratic behavior places future GOP electoral successes in jeopardy, and efforts by Republicans to be the voice of reason leads them to becoming outcasts within their party. But it’s worse than that. Most of the Republicans who’ve drawn Trump’s ire — like Paul Ryan — remain in positions of GOP leadership. But Trump’s withering attacks, which are launched in blocks of 140 characters, have undermined the conservative electorate’s faith in them.

To fully illustrate this quagmire, let Flake’s remarks from his scathing Senate address on Tuesday sink in:

“It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative, who believes in limited government and free markets, who is devoted to free trade, who is pro-immigration, has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican Party, the party that has so longed defined itself by its believe in those things.”

By | October 25th, 2017|Categories: Politics|0 Comments

Oneida wins region title

By | October 19th, 2017|Categories: Scott County|0 Comments

Enough is enough

Enough is enough:

Enough is enough.

The Oneida Family Motel is a crime haven and a blight on this small town. If its owners are unwilling or unable to clean up the criminal activity that is harbored there, it’s time for the motel to be permanently closed.

By | October 19th, 2017|Categories: Scott County|0 Comments

Nope!

Kiffin to Tennessee? No!!

Even if you liked Kiffin’s braggadocious approach so much that you excuse his late-night flight to Southern Cal as an aspiring coach taking his dream job, and you’re willing to overlook the diarrhea of the mouth, the recruiting violations (if he could land Tennessee on probation in one year, what could he do in three years? Or five?), the dissing of the traditions and all the rest, surely — surely — you aren’t okay with what happened on the way out the door. Have we really forgotten the way Kiffin and his right-hand man Ed Orgeron spent an entire evening on the phone with UT recruits, including early-enrollees who were on the verge of signing, in an effort to convince them to forego signing with the Vols so they could jump to Southern Cal?

Lane Kiffin is not a man to be trusted. He’s not a man who deserves to be the head coach of the Tennessee program. Not now, not ever.

By | October 19th, 2017|Categories: Football|0 Comments

‘Monumental’ improvements can’t offset terrible play

“Monumental” improvements off the field can’t offset Dooley-esque play on it:

After back-to-back nine-win seasons, no one expected to be comparing Butch Jones to Derek Dooley — in spite of the losses to South Carolina and Vanderbilt last year, and blowing two-touchdown leads against Oklahoma, Florida and Arkansas the year before that.

Yet, here we are. In 2017, the product on the field is performing on a level similar to where it was in 2012. It was a result that doomed Dooley and his staff of seven first-year assistant coaches back then, and it is looking increasingly likely that it’s a result that will doom Jones and his staff of seven first-year assistants now.

Push has come to shove, and academic progress and improved character apparently won’t save Butch Jones from the same fate as Derek Dooley.

By | October 19th, 2017|Categories: Football|0 Comments

Fire behind the smoke?

Grumors!!

“If I hadn’t been to Knoxville last week, I would have laughed at you,” Finebaum said on his daily radio and SEC Network talk show, in response to a caller who claimed that Jon Gruden would be Tennessee’s top choice to replace Butch Jones. “But I talked to someone, let me put it to you that way, someone that I have a lot of trust in and that is connected deeply in that program and he told me the same thing. He said ‘If we lose this (Georgia) game, and something happens to Butch Jones, our first choice will be Jon Gruden.’”

By | October 6th, 2017|Categories: Football|0 Comments

Mini-drought to end with wet weekend

The dry weather is about to come to a halt.

“The main path of this storm and the location of the frontal boundary will likely be where we see the highest precipitation amounts over the weekend and into next week. Most models are keeping the main band of the heaviest rain off to our west, but we can’t rule out some heavy rain here if the track of the storm shifts or the front makes further eastward progress than we anticipated. Currently think we could see widespread precipitation amounts of 1-3 inches in our area, but it’s possible some places could see up to 4 or 5 inches. This rain will fall over several days and with our recently (very) dry conditions we’ve experienced the rivers and lakes should be able to handle a good amount of water.”

By | October 6th, 2017|Categories: Weather|0 Comments

Opioid manufacturers under the gun

Going after Big Pharma:

The attorneys general claim that Purdue’s efforts to mislead doctors and the public about the need for, and the addictive nature of, opioid drugs led to the epidemic, creating an environment for thousands of Tennesseans to become addicted to opioid, which in turn fueled a dramatic increase in Scott, Campbell and other counties in the number of people exposed and addicted to OxyContin and similar pain relievers.

By | October 6th, 2017|Categories: Scott County|0 Comments

Oh brother…

Oh brother . . . 

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones has said a number of curious things since the Vols’ excellent start to the 2016 season went off the rails amid a rash of injuries. But what Jones had to say on a Nashville radio show Wednesday afternoon left even his ardent defenders scratching their heads.

“The last three years, the last two years have been some of the best years in the last 20 years of Tennessee football,” Jones said on the 3HL show on Nashville’s 104.5 The Zone on Wednesday. His comments came after he was asked about his Monday press conference, when he said that local media is creating “overwhelming negativity” around the program.

By | September 28th, 2017|Categories: Football|0 Comments

Dear NFL: Shut up and play ball

My Sunday afternoon routine is to kick back on the sofa with my laptop close at hand and a football game on the tube, half-heartedly watching the game as I work.

I’m hardly a diehard NFL fan, but I am a football fan. And while it may be less desirable than the college game, the NFL is still football.

At least it used to be.

This past Sunday, for the first time in years, I didn’t watch a single snap of NFL football. I didn’t watch Monday, either. And I won’t watch next weekend, or the weekend after that. I’m done with the NFL until the political nonsense stops.

I’m just one person, but apparently I’m not alone. The NFL’s TV ratings are down 10% this season, after an 8% drop last season. Empty seats at stadiums are becoming more common. And these problems existed even before the NFL went to war with President Donald Trump over the weekend. According to a poll conducted earlier this summer, the number one reason fans are turning away from the game is the ongoing anthem protests, which began with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and have spread to include other players.

Let’s be clear about one thing up front: My fed-up stance has nothing to do with Trump. I am not a fan of the president’s egotistical, self-aggrandizing approach and I am not a fan of many of his policy proposals. Frankly, I find it disconcerting that a sitting President of the United States espouses an idea that people should be required to stand for the national anthem.

As for me and my house, we will respect our nation’s flag and our anthem. But we also recognize that one of the very reasons we cloak ourselves in this patriotism is because of our thankfulness to live in a nation with the unique freedoms and liberties that ours enjoys. And just one of those liberties is illustrated by the fact that we don’t have a ruler who tells us we must stand, bow down, or salute — not the ruler, not a flag, nor anything else. That’s what freedom is.

But I, for one, am simply fed up with the politicization of the NFL. I watch football for football, not for political grandstanding. Sick and tired, to the point that I’m finally ready to say, enough. I enjoy football, but this part of it — the part where overpaid athletes and coaches lecture the rest of us and use a once-great league as a political bully pulpit — I can do without.

I’m not sure what end-game Trump had in mind when he used a political rally in Alabama to rail against the NFL and its anthem protestors. But one thing I am sure of: Trump’s words were calculated. He knew exactly what he was doing.

See, Trump knows the demographics. He understands that a majority of NFL fans are red-blooded, conservative Americans. And he understands that a majority of red-blooded conservative Americans are Trump supporters. All the evidence showed that millions of football fans were disgusted by the anthem protests and were begging for a voice. And Trump was happy to be that voice. But in true Trump fashion, he wasn’t happy to stop with a reasonable rebuke of the anthem-kneelers. He had to go nuclear, turning the simmering debate into a raging wildfire that will scorch everything in its path.

In doing so, Trump invited a fight from the NFL, and the NFL was happy to oblige. The league’s commissioner, many of its owners and scores of its players decided that defying Trump — who will represent America for, at most, eight years, and perhaps no more than four — was more important than respecting the permanent fixtures of American liberty.

And so that is where we’re at with professional football. When a former U.S. Army Captain who did three tours of duty in Afghanistan — Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva — chose to defy his coach’s demands that every member of the team stay off the field for the anthem because a narrow majority of the team’s players voted to do that, he drew the ire of his coach. Mike Tomlin was angry that Villanueva emerged from the tunnel and stood solitary behind the end zone, with his hand over his heart, as the anthem was played Sunday.

That’s correct: an American soldier who did three tours of duty in an active war zone was shamed by his coach for choosing to honor the national anthem.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement in response to Trump’s comments that claimed the league and its players must promote unity within the country. Never minding the fact that the NFL, since the anthem protests began, has been decidedly divisive in its actions, several of the league’s franchise owners echoed Goodell’s sentiment. Apparently this is how you promote unity: you brow-beat the person who dissents into your point-of-view. Because by Monday, one day after his defiant stand, Villanueva had apologized, saying he embarrassed himself and let down his coach.

My response to it all is to say to the NFL, “forget you.”

Trump may have been way over the top in his assessment that the NFL should “fire” players who don’t stand for the anthem, but that doesn’t mean the NFL has to encourage the protests, which is exactly what the league has done and has been doing. Forget the league’s excuse that it is a freedom of speech issue. This is the same NFL that fines players for certain touchdown celebrations, that didn’t allow Dallas Cowboys players to wear decals on their helmets in support of police officers who were slain in the line of duty, that fined a player who wore eye black supporting family members who died of breast cancer. Players can be fined — and have been — for wearing the wrong kind of hat in front of TV cameras, for wearing equipment that is the wrong brand, for wearing their socks too low. Freedom of speech? Hardly. There is no freedom of speech, or freedom of expression in the NFL. In the NFL, criticizing game officials can earn you a fine, but criticizing the flag which provides you the opportunity to make millions of dollars in the name of entertainment can earn you praise and honor.

This, and a laundry list of other reasons — all of them politically-tainted, all of them examples of an out-of-touch sports league getting completely away from the art of entertaining and encroaching on the art of preaching and bullying — is finally enough to make me say enough.

Because here’s the truth: if we, middle America, the folks who define this nation and are considered its norm, don’t take a stand, the politicization of anything and everything is only going to continue.

It was bad enough when politics spilled over to the primetime awards shows and to concerts. No longer can we watch the weather, turn on a sitcom or listen to music without being subjected to political preaching. There’s no such thing as unwinding, of getting away from the real world. Because every single facet of our lives is being politicized.

For years, the creeping tentacles of this politicization movement slowly crept into sports while we paid it little attention. Sports stars decided to use their celebrity status as a platform to espouse their favorite views. It isn’t enough that our cable subscriber fees and ticket prices are affording professional athletes luxurious lifestyles that we’ll never know; we’re also giving them a pulpit so they can preach to us about how we should live our lives.

It has been happening with sports media, too. ESPN is bleeding subscribers and losing revenue in no small part because it has become increasingly politicized. And not just politicized, but espousing political viewpoints that are directly contrary to a majority of its viewers. For years, viewers of NBC’s Sunday Night Football have been subjected to halftime lectures by sportscaster Bob Costas on gun control, global warming and a host of other issues that have absolutely nothing to do with football.

Not to be outdone, the NBA has been racing the NFL to see which can get deepest into the gutter of American politics the quickest. My two favorite coaches are Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr, and both have completely turned me off with the political viewpoints they’re endorsing and spouting at every turn — so much so that I’m pretty sure I’ll soon be done watching basketball, too.

I sense that the NFL, like ESPN, has real problems with a declining base and falling revenue. I also sense that the NFL, like ESPN, won’t be able to shelf the elitist attitude long enough to realize that its problem must be addressed.

That leaves it up to us, as consumers, to help exacerbate their problems. We’re powerful because without us they cease to exist. Perusing social media over the past few days, I’ve noticed that countless numbers of my friends and colleagues are furious at the NFL over its politicization of the game of football. But as a friend said earlier today, if we continue to support the league by watching or attending games, we’re part of the problem because we’re enabling their cause.

So my message to the NFL is this: Shut up and play football. I can watch Sixty Minutes, Meet the Press and plenty of other political shows on Sunday morning. After church, I prefer to watch football, not be subjected to more of your inane political ramblings that I couldn’t care less about. If you can’t give me three hours of politics-free entertainment, you are of no use or value to me. And I sincerely hope that enough Americans feel the same that your empire crumbles.

By | September 26th, 2017|Categories: Politics|0 Comments

Hot weather will continue into October

It was the coolest start to a month of September ever across East Tennessee . . . but, boy, are we ever paying for it now.

Summer returned with a vengeance around the middle of the month, and it isn’t going to slink away anytime soon.

Sure, there’s a reprieve from the heat coming this week, but it looks like it will be short-lived.

Tomorrow will be the last truly hot day for a while. A frontal boundary will move through tomorrow evening, with temperatures on Thursday only climbing into the mid 70s. After that, it looks like temps will hang out in the low 70s for the weekend, and we could see low temps drop into the 40s a morning or two along the way.

So, fall-like weather just in time for October, right?

Wrong. Models are showing summer-like heat returning as we get a few days into October, and staying there for a while. There isn’t great consistency for just how hot we’ll get, or how long we’ll stay hot, but it does look like 80-degree temps will revisit us as we move into October.

The 18z run of the GFS forecast model this evening has temps in the 80s every day from Oct. 5-12, and pops a high of 87 on Saturday, Oct. 7. The 12z run that preceded it was a bit cooler, but still had a couple of days in the 80s. The 6z run from this morning delayed the return of hot temps a bit, but still brought them back, and had temps as hot as 85 degrees as far out as Oct. 12. The 0z run of the model from last night was the coolest run today, barely cracking 80 degrees at all in the extended range. So the run-to-run consistency is fairly weak as far as specifics go, but the bottom line is that above-average temps are going to be present through the first half of October (even the 0z run of the GFS model showed a high of 81 on Oct. 9).

Another thing the GFS is showing fairly consistently is bone-dry conditions continuing through the first half of October. That isn’t unprecedented; we are in the driest time of year, and October is the driest month of the year, but most runs of the GFS are showing almost zero precipitation for the next 15 days, which will come on the heels of an abnormally dry last half of September.

We’ll close out September this weekend with 3.8 inches of rain for the month, which is well above normal (the average is 2.1 inches). But most of that came early in the month. Since Sept. 6, we’ve received less than four-tenths of an inch of rainfall in Oneida.

Streamflows aren’t yet reflecting the very dry ending to September; the Big South Fork is still measuring slightly above normal for this time of year both at Leatherwood Ford west of Oneida and further upstream at Burnt Mill Bridge near Robbins. But a couple more weeks without rain will start to make this feel a bit like a repeat of last fall, especially if the heat signals hold.

Make no mistake: by this time last year we were moving into a very serious drought, and we’re nowhere close to a drought at this point. But things are getting dry in a hurry.

As for temps, our normal high for this time of year is 74, and we drop to 70 by Oct. 9. By Oct. 14, a normal day won’t see temps rise out of the 60s. We’re likely to be quite a bit above normal through the first half of October, and it isn’t impossible that we could see some daily temperature records fall along the way.

By | September 26th, 2017|Categories: Weather|0 Comments

Jones’ odd presser shows coach cracking under pressure

CRACKING: Butch Jones’ odd, combative press conference on Monday indicated a coach who is beginning to crack under pressure…

There were some who argued, even after the Florida loss, that Jones was not on the hot seat.

To the contrary, Jones’ seat was growing quite hot after the Florida loss. It grew even hotter after the Vols’ struggles against America’s only 0-5 team. And if Monday’s press conference is any indication, Jones is beginning to show the wear and tear of that pressure.

What does that mean for Jones’ future? To me, it means he’s probably finished at Tennessee after this season. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that he gets fired. It could mean that he goes the Cuonzo Martin route.

Either way, Russell Smith’s words from three weeks ago now appear solidified: Jones’ tenure with the media is irreconcilable. And as so many have said in the past 24 hours, this won’t — can’t — end well.

By | September 26th, 2017|Categories: Football|0 Comments

Do you know what your kids are being exposed to on Snapchat?

I’ve blogged several times on the inherent dangers social media networks — like Musical.ly and Sarahah — pose for the young children who use them. The truth is, every social media network has a dark underbelly, and too many of them seem far too reluctant to take preventable measures to protect kids. Facebook enables bullying and doesn’t intervene even when it is reported, Musical.ly allows potential pedophiles to easily build fake accounts that closely resemble accounts of popular teen stars, et cetera and so on.

That brings us to Snapchat. This social media giant has 158 million users, and each user opens the app an average of 18 times each day. It’s a far cry from the other social media app that is particularly popular among teens and tweens, Instagram, which has more than 700 million users. But it’s still growing at a rapid rate.

By its very nature, Snapchat is probably the most dangerous social media app for young users. In addition to being a messaging network, its signature feature is the ability for users to send photos or short video clips that automatically delete themselves after a few seconds. This lulls some young users into a false sense of security, causing them to send photos they would never share otherwise. But there’s a catch: just because the pictures delete themselves doesn’t mean they’re gone forever. Other users who are viewing the shared photos can take a screen shot of them before they disappear. Snapchat alerts the sender that a screen shot has been taken, but by that point, the damage has been done.

Early on, it was not uncommon for high school-aged and even middle school-aged children to send nude or otherwise inappropriate photos of themselves to their friends, mistakenly believing that the photos would disappear after a short period of time. Too many times, those photos were screen-shotted and either distributed via text messaging or posted online for all the world to see.

While Snapchat users of all ages these days are aware of the dangers of having their photos screen-shotted, some of them still tend to send photos they wouldn’t otherwise send, because they disappear and their parents can’t catch them. Parents who don’t think this kind of behavior still takes place on Snapchat are kidding themselves. It happens, and as young as early middle school for a lot of kids.

That’s only the start of Snapchat’s dangers. A couple of months ago, I blogged about the dangers of a new social media network, Sarahah. (Read it here.) This app allows users to comment anonymously. It quickly gained popularity this past summer, with teens and tweens linking their Sarahah accounts to their Instagram and Snapchat accounts and sharing the messages they received. As I said at the time: “If some parents saw the things that are being anonymously said to their kids on Sarahah (and I’m talking middle school-aged kids), and that those kids are then posting publicly for all the world to see, I bet they would be shocked.”

But this post isn’t about the questionable photos kids are sending or receiving, or even Sarahah. It’s about something else entirely.

I blogged earlier this year that my wife and I strictly monitor our kids’ phone usage, including their social networking apps. I am logged in to each of their social networking apps on my phone, and I monitor their activity on a regular basis. At the time, I didn’t allow my kids to use Snapchat — because of the very dangers I mentioned above. In time, though, I relented, with some very specific rules. Foremost among those rules was that they could only add friends I approved of. And there’s an understanding that I will log in to their Snapchat accounts often. Sometimes I even open some of their unread messages to see what kind of material they’re receiving. They don’t like it, but, hey, my rules.

Snapchat has a feature called Stories, which allows users to post photos or videos for all of their friends to see. It’s a popular feature that has been adopted by many companies. (We’ve even experimented with it at the Independent Herald as a way to expand our social media presence.) When Snapchat users go to their Stories interface (think of it like a Facebook wall, where you see everything that is being posted publicly), they can see Stories that have been posted by friends. But they also see stories that Snapchat recommends for them.

Here’s the thing about Snapchat: it envisions itself, and actually bills itself, as a network for young adults. In fact, the single biggest Snapchat demographic is young adults. So Snapchat’s recommended stories are often things that are intended to be seen as hip and cool by young adults.

Let’s just say that things young adults consider hip and cool aren’t things most of us would want our kids seeing. You can use your own imagination.

When I glanced at the Stories page on my kids’ Snapchat accounts, I was continuously seeing Stories that had been recommended that looked like they were straight out of Cosmopolitan magazine. Sex, sex, alcohol, sex . . . you get the point. “How to be a good kisser,” or “How to turn on that special guy,” etc.

I didn’t click on these Stories and I knew my kids weren’t, either. But the more I saw them pop up, the more I found myself steaming about them. Let’s face it: Young adults may be Snapchat’s biggest demographic, but Snapchat knows very well that a significant portion of its users are teens and tweens. Actually, there are kids as young as second or third grade who use Snapchat. And, yet, the company is doing nothing to screen these Stories from these young, curious eyes.

So I started clicking on a few of them just to see if they were as bad as I envisioned.

They were worse.

Check out a few of these screenshots. Want your middle school student to get a quick sex ed lesson? They don’t have to wait for it at school or at home. They can get it on Snapchat.

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Hey, that’s good. Everyone wants their teenager to know how to last longer in bed, right?

It gets worse . . .

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How cool is that? About the time your teenager is starting to date, their Snapchat Stories screen is plastered with advice on how to find a date that’s “cool with sex on the first date.” Isn’t that helpful?

It isn’t just sex. It’s drugs, too. Check this out . . . and from no less a reputable media company than The Washington Post.

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After the drug Story, there’s another sex Story popping up. Apparently there is no shortage of those. . .

IMG_0011 IMG_0012Seen enough? Well, wait until you see the next one. I’m pretty sure I don’t know many parents who are cool with a social media app teaching our teens that being promiscuous is not just okay, but a good thing . . .

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But as the infomercial guy says on TV, “Wait! There’s more!!” I’ll just leave this last one without comment . . .

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So, back to the original question: Do you know what your kids are being exposed to on Snapchat?

I try not to make knee-jerk decisions. So I’ll sleep on it a few days. But then I’m pretty sure I know where my kids’ Snapchat apps are going. Back when I was their age and we were all using the Windows OS, we called it the Recycle Bin.

By | September 20th, 2017|Categories: Technology|0 Comments

Butch’s buyout

With a buyout of $7.5 million for Butch Jones, and with coaches’ salaries rising every day, it would be expensive for the Vols to fire their head coach and hire a proven winner. But they should pony up the dough if it becomes necessary.

Tennessee might find itself paying as much as $6 million or $7 million on a new coach next season, if it is truly interested in putting an end to the experiments with legacy names and up-and-comers. And, yes, it’s a bitter bullet to bite, especially for the average fan, who is being squeezed out of the stadium on gameday by rising costs. But fans like to win, even more than they like to attend games. And in college football’s arms race, loosening the purse strings is the name of the game.

It might be time for the Vols to loosen their own.

By | September 20th, 2017|Categories: Football|0 Comments