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Opinion: What the tragedy of Tyler Clementi teaches about teen sexting
Dharun Ravi was found guilty Friday of invasion of privacy and bias intimidation.
March 19th, 2012
02:23 PM ET

Opinion: What the tragedy of Tyler Clementi teaches about teen sexting

Editors Note: David M. Hall, Ph.D., is he author of the book “Allies at Work: Creating a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Inclusive Work Environment.” He is also the author of “BullyShield,” an iPhone and Droid app. Hall teaches high school students as well as graduate courses on LGBT issues and bullying prevention. His website is www.davidmhall.com and he is on twitter @drdavidmhall.

By David M. Hall, Special to CNN

(CNN) – Dharun Ravi made videos of his college roommate, Tyler Clementi, sexually involved with another man. Tyler was unaware that he was being recorded and broadcast. Confronted with this violation of his privacy, Tyler committed suicide by jumping from the George Washington bridge.

In 2008, Jessica Logan, a high school senior in Ohio, sent naked pictures of herself to her boyfriend. When they broke up, he forwarded those photos to others. Logan was called a slut and a whore, according to numerous news reports. She eventually committed suicide – just weeks  after graduation- by hanging herself in her bedroom closet.

Clementi’s privacy was clearly violated. There is debate about whether Logan waived her privacy. However, both were victims of people inflicting harm by attempting to hold them up for ridicule. Each of their stories has the same tragic ending. Clementi and Logan found that their expectation of privacy was violated.

According to teens, sending and posting sexually explicit images is occurring more than many adults realize. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy reports that 20% of teens (18% of boys and 22% of girls) have sent such nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves.

I teach criminal justice to high school seniors, and we debate the seriousness of crimes. On most issues – such as the death penalty, armed robbery, drinking and driving – their views are similar to adults. When talking about sexting, however, their views are decidedly different.

Their first area of disagreement is frequency. High school students insist that the 20% figure of sending or posting sexually explicit images is not even close to correct. They argue that those numbers are closer to 50%.

Many state that sending sexually explicit pictures of yourself waives your right to privacy, and a significant number argue there is nothing wrong with forwarding such images. However, this view is disproportionately held by males. Additionally, many students explain that the issue is largely heterosexual males forwarding sexually explicit images of females. This problem is not an equal opportunity offender.

What ties together the tragedies of Tyler Clementi and Jessica Logan is that males are the perpetrators of forwarding or posting the sexually explicit images. On a larger scale, it appears that males are the primary source of sexually explicit images being spread.

What are responsible adults – whether we are in homes, schools, or places of worship – doing to help teens navigate the virtual world responsibly? Judging by how common this problem is, whatever we are doing is having limited success.

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy argues that people should consider the following before sending such images of themselves:

  1. Don’t assume that anything you send or post will remain private.
  2. There is no changing your mind in cyberspace.  Anything you send or post will never truly go away.
  3. Don’t give in to the pressure to do something that makes you uncomfortable, even in cyberspace.
  4. Consider the recipient’s reaction.
  5. Nothing is truly anonymous.

While these steps provide valuable advice to people who are about to send or post sexually sexually explicit images to others, these guidelines would have done nothing to protect Tyler Clementi. It is critical that we also place responsibility on those who forward sexually explicit messages.

We must also target messages at teens, particularly males, who are often forwarding and posting sexually explicit images. Future instances can be avoided if we teach teens to think carefully before sharing sexually explicit images of others. As a parent and educator, I want teens to consider the following when they consider forwarding sexually explicit images:

1.     Violating a person’s privacy may be illegal. Some people get prosecuted for such actions and go to prison.

2.     Think about the person in the photograph or video. You may think it is funny or not a big deal, but that person is much more likely to feel violated.

3.     Remember that people have responded to this invasion of privacy by resorting to extreme measures such as suicide. Even if your actions are not illegal, they could trigger a tragedy that will have a devastating impact on many. You will have to live with that.

These messages are best if taught in the home as parents should be aware of how much access their children have to electronic communications. Additionally, schools, places of worship, and community centers should work to identify the virtual citizenship education that meets the goals and needs of their communities.

Much of the press coverage of Ravi’s trial revolved around whether or not he was homophobic. This was a critical question in his trial, but there is something larger the rest of us should consider. Many young people today do not understand the pain inflicted by violating someone’s privacy in the virtual world. Specifically, many heterosexual males may fail to understand the pain and isolation felt by females and gay males when their privacy is violated.

The suicides of Tyler Clementi and Jessica Logan should be treated as a call to action. If we do not change how we are teaching teens, I believe these tragedies will merely serve as chapters in a larger, devastating story of young people who have gone to extreme measures after being ridiculed and traumatized by their sexuality in the virtual world.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of David M. Hall.

Posted by
Filed under: Age • Bullying • Discrimination • How we live • Sexual orientation • What we think
soundoff (69 Responses)
  1. Manuela

    Thank you Krishna sir,We really aaeppcirte for your kind information regarding our beloved village. It has been always fantastic to hear news about our village in such a way,especially, in development sector. I am very much proud of you that you have been serving for our village for such a long prior of time.When I saw your face it remind me of my school age and all those stupid things that i used to do at that time. It just feels like yesterday, I feel young again like a boy. I do hope you also feel the same as me, don't you sir? I have no doubt you have a huge connection with the school and village both emotionally and physically. I know you love the place same as any other villagers. Only one thing is different with compare to other is that you have been contributing with your highly respected qualification, dedication and honestly almost whole of your life.My heartfelt thanks to you for your hard work and showing such an enthusiasm towards our village and as well as school.We are very lucky to have such a generous teacher and proud of you.Your sincerelyEx student Arjun badmas danda ghar.PS it would be better if you could publish your e mail add so we can contact you personally in future.

    April 17, 2012 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mickey1313

    if you take nude pic of yourself, and then give them away, you wave your rights to privacy. If you want privacy DO NOT TAKE NUDE PICS.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
  3. Courtney

    I wish this was about two student and an invasion of privacy and not about this so called bullying. Tyler wasn't bully he was uncomfortable in his own skin. Ravi wasn't comfortable having random men in his room. This case is said because had Tyler stayed around confronted everyone, perhaps this would be a lesson n being a better communicator and not about sucide. Tyler was sick I think the media, his family, those who feel connected to this case need to understand. You don't just decide to kill yourself after your roomate invades your privacy. It was a terrible thing to do but that cant be what pushes a person, so over the edge. I think its wrong for LGBT and others to point fingers at Ravi when, Tyler didnt have very nice things to say about him. Two wrongs dnt make it right. We all need to have some accountability. i think its very werid that this kid was picking up older sketchy men. Why is no one bring that up?! This is such a terrible outcome.

    March 24, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  4. justicefor7

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    From there you can access the other letters through the recent post.

    I am a man who has stood up against racism, discrimination, bullying, harassment, hostile environment, belittlement, threats, and retaliation, all while working for Verizon Communications, as they conspired to terminate me.

    I am a man who is trying to hold his family together while in the process of trying to fight for my rights to be heard. I am a man who has brought up his family on morals, discipline, character, hard work, dedication and conviction to believe that good things happen to good people. I am a man who could not be more proud of my family for all their trust and faith in my conviction. I am man who is a proud servant in my community and deserves to be heard, as I am begging for JUSTICE!

    I have learned that: “If you have no Money, A lot of Power, unlimited amount of Connection and resources, you have no chance at receiving justice within our country!

    Even though I know this to be true, that justice of only for the few, I refuse to allow Verizon to beat me! I will fight them until I die. I will never give up, I will let the world know of the abuse I suffered and the lack of justice I have received.

    Neal W. Dias

    March 22, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
  5. jon

    Liberals are such nutbags...they prove it every time they want to ban something, like that is going to prevent it.

    March 22, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. JDHogg

    It's a good question; why isn't Tyler's mother on trial? She pushed her own kid over the edge with her rejecting him. Who's to say what really drove him to jump? Ravi did a horrible and illegal thing. But I think the blame should be shared.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. JOSE0311USMC

    SORRY, I WAS IN THE WRONG ROOM....I DIDN'T KNOW I WAS IN A GAY CHAT ..I THOUGHT I WAS IN THE FLORIDA SHOOTING ROOM..SORRY. DISREGARD MY COMMENTS.

    March 22, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. JOSE0311USMC

    KIDS SHOULD BE HOME AT 8 PM....THEY SHOULD NOT BE ON THE STREETS ....BEEN TO THE SOUTH SIDE OF CHICAGO ??
    I HAVE....ALL I SEE IS KIDS IN GANGS–DEALING DRUGS..WHERE ARE THEIR PARENTS ??

    March 22, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Anyway, Most icelanders do not care about the aceoisscn they just want to benifit from European Economic area and always refusing many things that come from Europe .And most politicians are brain washing this little nation .Could iceland Survive if it is no more within the European Economic area too ? why not making a referundum .As many think this is the best country in the world,That can stand on its own .

      September 16, 2012 at 12:45 am | Report abuse |
  9. JOSE0311USMC

    YOU DON'T SEE WHITE KIDS BREAKING INTO BLACK HOMES.. CARJACKING-OR DEALING IN DRUGS.....THEY DO BUY THE POT FROM BLACKS... BLACKS GOT TO STOP STEALING..GET A JOB.

    March 22, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      SORRY WRONG ROOM...

      March 22, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bob

    I think this topic Ran its course now....

    March 22, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Francisco

      Thank you sir ! I am delighted to read the Information about our shocol and Ghandruk. I hope that you will give further general information.My heartfelt thanks to you for your hard work towards our village and as well as shocol. yours faithfully former student:Ram Bahadur Gurung/2046 From. ENGLAND READING

      April 18, 2012 at 2:17 am | Report abuse |
  11. Mousey Little

    Get rid of the cell phones. My parents knew exactly where I was at all times without a cell phone. They both worked full time. When Mom or Dad called the house we better be there and homework better be done or we were really grounded. There was one TV in the house and Dad owned the remote. We went to the library or outside to play if we were bored, or helped clean the house and take care of the yard. Parents need to grow up and take responsibility.

    March 21, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Frikken Frak

    ".....both were victims of people inflicting harm by attempting to hold them up for ridicule"

    Holding them up for ridicule......that statement jumped off the page for me. Very, very well stated.

    March 21, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Joey B

    Mr. David Hall, you might have a PHD, but you start this article off with a lie so how are we supposed to take you seriously? You state “Confronted with this violation of his privacy, Tyler committed suicide by jumping from the George Washington bridge.” This is incorrect. He committed suicide after he came out over the phone to his mother and she verbally berated him and threatened to disown him.

    March 21, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  14. woodrow

    Gay people need to be confident that most people support their life choices and only a small percentage of idiots out there do not. If I had seen this video, I'd have reported the person who posted it. I think I represent most respectable citizens too. So don't be jumping off any bridges. The world wants you as you are, alive and happy.,

    March 21, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Maybe this Kid had more going on in his life to jump....But dont blame it on the fact that he was Gay....Thats just an excuse you people like to throw around..

      March 21, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • GymDad

      Once again – there was no video – ever of any kind. It was a quick live shot – nothing was taped – so you could not have "seen a video" and there was no one to report for posting a video, because a video was not posted.

      March 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
      • Siggy

        Excactly, there was no video, etc. – I wish everyone would stick to the facts, especially David M. Hall. Do your homework.

        March 24, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cardinal Ratzinger

      I don't support this way of life because I have seen how they live and the consequences . Besides, a U.S government study found that LGBT youth are 4 times more likely yo attempt suicide than other young people due to mental health problems.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
      • Elaine

        Yeah, because of close minded people like you. If you feel that way, fine, but don't share it with the rest of the world. That is the problem. If everyone would accept people as they are we would not be having this issue. And as for you not supporting "their way of life", What exactly does that mean? I guess being a contributing member of society is not something you support. Whats it to you if someone is LGBT? How does this affect you at all?

        But I guess if the government did the study it has to be right. The government never lies....right?

        March 22, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
  15. C

    What puzzles me is how stupid some of the people here are – it isn't "this generation" it's the damn parents, society, and the stupid public media. Granted, cellular phones couldn't do what they do today 10-15 years ago, but kids were still "WOW" – whipping them on Wednesday! There's no difference int he behaviors exhibited, just the avalability of what society is making! HELLO morons!

    March 21, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Now Arent you Special.....MR. Parent of the Year!!!!

      March 21, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Krehator

    Keep giving your kids cell phones America.. It's working out so well, isn't it?

    I know...I know... you think you are able to monitor them. (laugh)

    March 21, 2012 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      The person wwho invented Cell phone will Die a long & Painfull Death...

      March 21, 2012 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • MsT

      This isn't about cell phones. Before cell phones kids were behind the bleachers going " you show me yours and I'll show you mine" while some other boys watched.

      March 22, 2012 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
  17. Bob

    Hopefully, Ill be Dead in 10 or 15 yrs so I dont have to see how this world is self Detructing inself with this Generation....

    March 21, 2012 at 7:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Krehator

      This is why we need a natural predator.

      March 21, 2012 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
    • B

      I love how each generation says the next is going to be the demise of the world. Think outside the box. Civil War, WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan. And there are so many more that I have not listed. Look at all of the atrocities that have occured over the years (decades.....centuries..... millennia...). The best part, it has not been one generation, it has been all of them. Its the same play, just different cast and crew. Stop judging others, live your own damn lives and stop messing with each other.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse |
  18. jane

    It sounds like parents need to raise their boys to show more respect towards women. I hate to see how the world is when these boys grow up.

    March 21, 2012 at 5:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Cardinal Ratzinger

      I teach my kid how to respect women every time he sees me loving and taking care of his mom. I also talk to him about the importance of a woman in a mans life. He's a pre teen and he's learning that normal families are the fundamental stone of society and that nothing good comes from perverting this principle.

      March 21, 2012 at 6:37 am | Report abuse |
      • Heather

        I simply wanted to say that I enjoyed your post. It is refreshing to know that there really are people that know how to teach right and wrong and even to give them high standards.

        March 22, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
      • Gundol

        16a18a351fdThank you for your whole work on this web page. My mother rlelay likes going through investigation and it's easy to understand why. Most people learn all concerning the compelling tactic you give worthwhile items via the web blog and therefore increase response from other individuals about this situation then our favorite princess is always studying a lot of things. Take advantage of the rest of the year. You're the one performing a dazzling job. 18d

        April 17, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • JanesBeaver

      Yep it is all the boy's fault!!!!!!

      March 21, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • BurghThing

      and maybe parents should teach the girls to respect themselves too and not send naked pictures of themselves to every guy they're smitten with.....im 26 and have naked pictures of 5-6 different girls on my phone....not one of them did i attempt to illicit in any way...and only 1 of the girls was one i was actually dating

      March 21, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
      • BurghThing

        and just to be clear...they aren't teen girls....theyre all in their 20s...maybe i should have said women ha

        March 21, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  19. fwd

    The nation is headed somewhere. Where are we headed?

    March 21, 2012 at 3:24 am | Report abuse |
  20. Caiha

    Correction to previous: most relationships are NOT forever.

    March 21, 2012 at 2:39 am | Report abuse |
  21. Caiha

    Ignoring all the religious claptrap, this article is an important message. I've been pressured by every boyfriend I've ever had into sending nude photos of myself, but I've resisted, because you know darn well that most relationships are forever, and men are basically animals. They're going to forward them to all their friends after you break up, and in some cases they won't even wait til then. Don't give in. Don't do it.

    March 21, 2012 at 2:38 am | Report abuse |
    • CC

      FYI you're also an animal. I've heard girls talk way more negatively about men than men do about women. Men don't give all the details just a rough overview. LOL Plus maybe think about which males you're a dealing with before blaming all men for your poor choices in men. Always blaming men is the answer to everything now.

      March 21, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  22. How Sad

    What a bunch of gibberish! Ravi did wrong, but was it really as bad as this gay "Dr." says it was, or could this "Dr." not be playing with a full deck himself? Clementi had a mental illness, and killed himself becasue he could not deal with it. That is not Ravi's fault.

    March 20, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • mw

      Sad indeed. If you're outraged by how the outcome of this trial is influenced by the media, please visit http://wh.gov/NM1.

      March 20, 2012 at 11:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • crazuki

      I agree with you. It is Tyler's inability to stand for himself. It is the lack of support from his friends and family that pushed him off the bridge. Don't punish Ravi for this.

      March 28, 2012 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
      • Raquel

        Dear Krishnaji,Thank you very much for sending brief news about Ghandruk, it eticarnly has given us pleasure to know what is going on in Ghandruk.I was born and bred in Ghandruk but due to global migration, currently living in the global village in the UK. As such I am always endeavoring to keep myself up to date with the news and views about Ghandruk. The step you have taken is good for those people living abroad. If you would kindly send us such brief notes at least every six months would be great?Thank you so much.Warmest regards

        April 18, 2012 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
      • Alejandra

        Very nice post. And just to be on-topic with this post, I don’t know for you girls but to me hair is the most important apscet for my look. My hair stilist from the saloon where I go offered me for about two months ago some kind of hair oil that will make my hair grow faster and thicker. I don’t want to spam this blog so, who wants to find more details can click on my user name.Also sorry for my poor english

        April 19, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Denisa Kadlecová

    First, it is important to put emphasis on the interest from parents. I beg to differ with the first point!

    March 20, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
  24. GymDad

    I challenge David M Hall to come back and acknowledge that he misrepresented the Ravi/Clementi trial. No one is saying that bullying is a good thing – but let's stick with the facts and don't change the facts to better support your own agenda. Of course he will say he did not mean to – but as I said – he has no credibility. The big deal is that other people that did not follow the trial and know the facts, just assume that if this shows up on CNN that it would be correct.

    March 20, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Jaygolfer

    We restrict when teenagers can drive, drink, smoke, vote, but we give them phones and computers as near infants and think they are wise enough to know how to handle this technology. Maybe we just need smarter parents! Oh wait, it's the government that restricts those activities. Yes, we definitely need smarter parents. Should the government restrict who is allowed to have children? This sounds like a very entertaining debate. Talk amongst yourselves........

    March 20, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • michaeldw

      Because it's working so well for China

      March 20, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mickey1313

      I dont think the government should restrict who can have kids, I do think though that anyone who wants government assistance, should have to undergo mandatory sterilazition. Helping the unfortunate is fine, but helping them forever, because they are to stupid to stop breeding, is not. And yes, it is the partents job 100% to limit there kids phone, not the governments. If the government gets involved, everyone looses.

      March 20, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
      • steve

        but rememeber it is very glamorous to be a "baby" daddy to 15 or 20 offspring!

        March 25, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
  26. GymDad

    How can you write an article about the Clementi case and not even know the simple facts??? You totally lost all credibility. No pictures or video of Tyler was taken only 1 brief webcam live review of two males kissing in full clothes. Then alot of tweeting and such. Get your facts straight.

    March 20, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Tburgin,Chicago

    What made Ravi think he could just tape someones private time, show it to the world then talk crap about him while posting the video without some sort of retaliation? Ravi is so arrogant that prison time is the only thing that could ever make him understand what he did. Clamenti and some friends if needed should have confronted Ravi and beat the day lights out of him. Hate to say it but Clamenti was weak for not standing up for himself.

    March 20, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • crazuki

      Get it straight there was no tape.

      March 28, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  28. Trevoir

    The children! We have to protect the CHILDREN!!! I guarantee most of the parents here, including myself, did some things with a Polaroid back in the day. Time to talk to your children instead of being paranoid hypocrites. And yes I am a parent, and I actually talk to my child about these things.

    March 20, 2012 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Cardinal Ratzinger

      I hope you're teaching them that it is immoral to expose themselves and illegal to share minors lure material.

      March 20, 2012 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  29. tcat

    I disagree that the rates are as low as 18-20% I can guarantee that any teen boy who's parents don't pay attention to his phone activities has nude pictures of female classmates, and probably half the girls have sent them at one point or another.

    March 20, 2012 at 7:33 am | Report abuse |
  30. dani

    Your first para is incorrect and speaks volume of the research you did before you wrote this article.

    March 19, 2012 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Cardinal Ratzinger

    Dr. why don't you keep your little book in the closet?

    March 19, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
  32. Fact Checker

    Wake up and drink some coffee Dr. There was no recording and no broadcast. Ravi watched Tyler through web cam and then tweeted about it.

    March 19, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  33. Josie

    When the internet first came out, my parents allowed all of us 1 hour of time. We were not allowed on any chat rooms or to have email. They kept track of where we went and all that. More parents need to watch their kids more. My own kids are restricted.

    March 19, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  34. Rick Howe

    I certainly hope your call to action is heeded, Dr. Hall.

    March 19, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  35. LR

    As an elementary school teacher I must say, education on this topic needs to occur in the pre-teen years as well. Each year their are more and more reports of bullying and inapprorpriate behavior happening on multi media social network sites and through texting. Schools need to educate, and parents need to be involved in monitoring. Thank you for bringing this to light Dr. Hall!

    March 19, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cardinal Ratzinger

      Yes I agree I am teaching my pre teen that LGBT people is sick and to watch his back in public places because there's a lot of pervs out there.

      March 19, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
      • Nah

        Are you even making an effort at trolling?

        March 20, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
      • TrollHater

        go preach to your kids how to hate, the opposite of what the bible says, remember what jesus says "love thy neighbour as thyself". I'm sure you're familliar with this part of the gospel. May god show you the real path to salvation, because you're clearly going to hell for teaching you're kids to hate LGBT people.

        March 20, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
      • Cardinal Ratzinger

        My Bible says that God burned down to ashes Sodom and Gomorrah. Also says that we must be holy as He is holy. Amen.

        March 20, 2012 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |