It's going to leave a mark
ISSUE: Internet bullies
OUR VIEW: It’s time to pay attention
Most people across this country — parents, educators, law enforcement officials, clergy and many others — were shocked when six Florida teenage girls videoed themselves last month taking turns bullying, brutally punching and kneeing a defenseless 16-year-old girl cowering in a fetal position.
However, anyone paying attention to what many teens, and adults, are posting and viewing on the Internet these days wouldn’t have been surprised at all. Fight videos, especially featuring girls, have become common. In fact, Google “girl fight” and you will find thousands of similar videos.
The Florida teenagers, including two boys who stood as guards during the 30-minute videoed mugging, apparently planned to post their assault on YouTube, the online video host, for all the world to see. They didn’t get the chance because when the injured victim finally called 911, police seized the video and released it to the public to be aired repeatedly on TV and posted online.
It clearly is time to begin paying attention to what our young people are putting online, what they are viewing, how they are being influenced and what they are learning there.
The Internet has become a miraculous tool opening opportunities that a few short years ago most of us couldn’t have imagined. As with all technological developments, the digital evolution also presents opportunities for abuse. This, and other types of pornography, are unfortunate examples.
Banning YouTube, as some now demand, is no answer. It serves legitimate communications and educational purposes empower citizen participation. Outlawing it would not be possible, anyway.
The argument that video beatings exercise free speech protected by the First Amendment makes absolutely no sense, either. They are no more free speech than yelling “fire” in a crowded theater.
There does need to be some safeguards, self-policing within families, institutions of education and faith. And when they fail, law enforcement has to sweep in. Parents can and should help by paying attention to what their children are posting and viewing online. It is their responsibility. They should be aware there are ways to find out what sites their children are visiting. And to check routinely.
The latest example of cyber bullying took place in a faraway state. However, in Kentucky, Gov. Steve Beshear on Tuesday signed a bill into law that requires policies against bullying in this state.
A video of a school fight at Madison County Schools was posted recently on YouTube which officials say could be considered a type of “cyber bullying,” according to The Associated Press.
The Florida incident is a warning to anyone who would be tempted to emulate the teen attackers. Not only was their victim seriously injured, possibly suffering a concussion, but their names forever will be associated with the beatings.
And they could go to jail for a long, long time.Tried as adults, as they unquestionably should be, on charges of kidnapping, assault and tampering with a witness, they could spend the rest of their lives in jail. Let’s face it, that’s not very likely to happen. But for the rest of their lives what is sure to happen is every time they apply for jobs, try to enter a college or university or receive security clearances, the video of their brutal spree will be an obstacle. Impressions of their police mug shots and news stories will pop up every time one of their names is typed into a computer search browser.
The realization that such thoughtless deeds have serious, lifelong consequences should send a strong message reverberating across the country, at least for awhile.