The Trifecta — Teenagers, Social Media, and Bullying

Last week, while the town watched the champion football team stomp on the opposing team, a group of kids on an adjacent field engaged in a less civilized battle. I only know the story in very broad sketches that have been whispered by parents on text messages and on parents’ Facebook group. A girl was involved. Naked pictures of her distributed. Racial slangs. Boys defending honor. Long years of grievances. One kid in the hospital with a fractured skull.

While this fight with the skull stomping was going on, a group of kids watched. And filmed the whole thing with their cellphones. And put it on Snapchat.

Jonah, away at college, saw the footage. I heard about it five days later on Facebook, when parents began yelling, demanding blood.

Last night, I went to the school board meeting as usual. Typically, I’m the only person in the audience. I find these meetings useful for work purposes. Last night, there was a crowd, news vehicles, and parents holding up signs. They came out to the microphone and brought up images of Sandy Hook and Las Vegas shootings. Hysteria. It was a lynch mob.

It’s a well heeled suburb outside of New York City. People work in law and in finance. They come here for the schools and the trees and the walkable downtown and the quick commute to downtown Manhattan. A fight where a skull gets cracked just doesn’t happen here. People are very freaked out.

The school doesn’t want to get involved, because the incident happened after school hours. It’s not their business. But the parents want them to get involved. At least, they want to hear a strong statement or platitutdes about the evils of bullying.

I think that the school district should bring in someone to talk to parents about finstagrams and snapchat. Images and words that go out on the Internet through these social media forums will never been seen by future employers, and the kids know that. They absolutely do. Can law enforcement find it? Not sure. It might be good to have someone from law enforcement talk to both parents and kids about these forms of social media and what the kids are putting on there. Most parents have no idea. Some school administrators would be surprised at what their own kids are putting out there.

Also, I’m not entirely sure that the kids who were video taping the incident were doing it in a voyeuristic sort of way. It wasn’t a Kitty Geneovese thing. It’s a generational thing. They feel they are doing a public service by video taping events. That’s what everyone does when they attend a protest. They also probably rationally figured it was a bad idea to get in the middle of two kids beating each other senseless.
Anyhow, tensions are pretty high around here. Very glad to just being parenting one very quirky kid who will never ever understand or participate in this sort behavior.
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12 thoughts on “The Trifecta — Teenagers, Social Media, and Bullying

  1. “They come here for the schools and the trees and the walkable downtown and the quick commute to downtown Manhattan. A fight where a skull gets cracked just doesn’t happen here. People are very freaked out.”

    Weird, ’cause I think your town sounds kind of scary.

    I think there’s a limit to what a public school can do about actions students take off school property, when they aren’t in school. The description of this case seems like laws have been violated and I think there needs to be more enforcement of the laws.

  2. Images and words that go out on the Internet through these social media forums will never been seen by future employers, and the kids know that. They absolutely do.

    I think they’re mistaken in that, but I would not underestimate the arrogance of late teens. https://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/how-to-recover-snapchat-messages/

    I agree with bj that it’s not a school matter. It sounds like a criminal matter. The parents can find capable defense attorneys, although it might be embarrassing to ask.

  3. I think people over-estimate how much this will hurt in searching for jobs unless they have a really weird name. Your Facebook book pictures are tagged with your name, not that plus your date of birth and place of birth. If somebody googles my name, they’ll have to dig through hundreds of results to find me. The first hits are a banker, a chemist, a philosopher, and photographer, and a kid who died in a horrible accident. I don’t even show up until page 5.

    Don’t name your kid something uncommon and relax.

    1. MH said,

      “Don’t name your kid something uncommon and relax.”

      Easy for people with common surnames to say.

      My primary name doppelganger is a hipster tattoo artist. I hope she doesn’t do anything terrible.

      Also, it’s pretty late in the game for most of us to do something about our kids’ names.

      1. “My primary name doppelganger…”

        German’s got a word for that: Namensvetter (lit., “name-cousin”).

        My namensvetter used to be CIO at Google.

      2. Doug said,

        “German’s got a word for that: Namensvetter (lit., “name-cousin”).

        “My namensvetter used to be CIO at Google.”

        Nice!

      3. When I was on the job market (WAY back when), my primary name doppelganger was running an online campaign to get two characters on the TV show ER back together (I think Luka and Abby?). I made me look like a HUGE loser with nothing better to do than post endlessly about the romances of TV characters. Now, my primary name doppelganger is an African American male race car driver. Given that he’s somewhat unusual in his field, it takes quite a while to get to me in generic search results. So there are upsides and downsides to having a somewhat common name.

      4. Obviously, to avoid looking like somebody that vested in TV fandom, you should have posted naked pictures of yourself tagged with your name, place of birth, and date of birth,

      5. ” I made me look like a HUGE loser with nothing better to do than post endlessly about the romances of TV characters. ”

        Excuse me. I think that makes you look like a HUGE winner. 🙂

        Doug, I love that word. My husband and kids don’t have any namensvetter (I looked up the plural form, which is unchanged from the singular 🙂 but my son has a close one, just one different vowel. I have many namensvetter, which is they way I like it. 🙂

      6. Shannon,

        Hilarious, especially about the soaps!

        MH,

        “Obviously, to avoid looking like somebody that vested in TV fandom, you should have posted naked pictures of yourself tagged with your name, place of birth, and date of birth,”

        I told husband last night about Facebook new anti-revenge porn plan (send us your nudes!).

        Still laughing!

  4. I can see an amazing amount on my children’s friends Facebook pages. I recommend changing the settings for seeing things to “friends only,” rather than “friends of friends,” or “everyone.” Not that my children or their friends listen to me.

    I have some Facebook friend requests from people I don’t remember. Maybe they’re real, or maybe they mistake me for someone else.

    At any rate, if a police detective were to look for social media connected to the cracked skull, he or she would look for online friends of known local teens. I’m sure they already do. Of course, with a subpoena they can get much more:

    https://www.facebook.com/records/x/login/
    https://help.instagram.com/494561080557017
    https://storage.googleapis.com/snap-inc/privacy/lawenforcement.pdf

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