The Internet is no doubt an amazing place for kids. They can learn, express themselves, play games, email friends, and engage in other generally harmless behaviors. But as good as the web is, it also has a darker side. Kids are certainly looking up material that many a kid in our day would never be able to get their hands on (unless someone in their family worked at an X-rated store). They can meet people and get into trouble and wind up dead or in a very bad situation. We’ve all seen To Catch A Predator. But it’s not just the illicit stuff-it’s also cyber bullying.
Back in my day, all you really needed to be popular was the right clothes (Hyper color) and the right Trapper Keeper (New Kids On The Block). It was stressful to keep up appearances, but nothing compared to now, when children are pressured to look cool in IRL (in real life) and online. There was the shocking case of Lori Drew, who created a fake MySpace account of a young boy to become friends with a young girl, Megan Meier, who was bullying her daughter at school. Mom wrote such hateful messages that Megan committed suicide.
And that’s just one example. The latest case of cyber bullying is Jessi Slaughter, a young girl who has been targeted by Internet hacker board 4 chan, the group of pranksters responsible for trying to send Justin Beiber to North Korea.
Her parents have no idea what to do.
It all started when Jessi, a frequent uploader of videos to YouTube, was rumored to be involved with a much-older lead singer of an emo-band called Blood on the Dance Floor. In response, she created an expletive-laced video in which she calls out “haters.”
People retaliated by posting her real name, phone number, address and social networking information online. They also began a campaign to harass her. This led Jessi to post a YouTube of herself crying with her father in the background yelling at those who were bothering her.
Back in the day, you could come home and tell your parents that the school bully took your lunch money and they would call their parents to discipline them. Some parents would show up at the school yard and intimidate said bully. This is the modern version of those actions:
Sadly, this is not a version that works. How do you handle a faceless enemy? Her father had to do something to protect his child and clearly did not know what. Instead of doing what it was intended to, help his child, it made matters worse. The video became an instant viral because poor Dad, obviously unequipped (and who wouldn’t be) to know how to handle this sort of thing, used lines such as “You done goofed” and “Consequences will never be the same” which Internet users found “hilarious.”
4 chan users and other people online, some of whom are adults and some whom are also kids, began bothering Jessi and her family even more. They sent pizza to her house, prank called, and even sent her death threats. Her parents called the cops and she was brought to a safe house. She has been court ordered to stay off the Internet for at least three days.
Jessi’s mother told Gawker.com, “I’ve had people calling, impersonating themselves as cops, as child protection services. Something we never wanted! We’ve had may, many death threats. We’re afraid to leave the house. We’re afraid to go to bed. We’re sleeping in shifts, my husband and I am. I want my life back. I want my daughter’s life back.”
At 11, this young girl is acting like an 11 year old, although in a very public manner. The Internet is not forgiving of childish mistakes and has no qualms stalking a little girl. It’s a frightening cautionary tale about what can happen to kids online. Cyber bullying is a new phenomenon and laws and regulations and how to deal with this sort of thing as a family are still being worked out.
The only thing a parent can really do is be cognizant of what their child is looking at and how they are behaving online. Jessi’s mom has said she never watched her daughter’s videos. “I don’t even go on the computer.”
Do you know what your kid is doing online?