A teen’s recent suicide as a result of being taped (by his roommate) engaging in homosexual activity has left this question on many people’s minds: Is online social networking dangerous for today’s youth?
Tyler Clementi, a shy, quiet Rutgers University student was driven to suicide after a video of him and another young man was released on the Internet by his roommate, Dharun Ravi. Clementi had no idea he was being taped by Ravi, who set up a tiny Web cam in their room that he controlled remotely from a nearby dorm room. Under New Jersey privacy laws, transmitting images of nudity or sexual contact without the person’s consent is a crime that can land you in jail for a maximum of five years.
Sadly, Clementi’s death is not the first that has been caused by Internet bullying or an invasion of privacy. According to the USA Today article, there have been many cases in which the Internet was a key player. Jessica Logan, an 18-year-old Cincinnati teen committed suicide in 2008 after an ex-boyfriend forwarded her nude cell phone photos to high school classmates. Megan Meier, a 13-year-old Missouri teen killed herself after finding out that her MySpace Internet romance was a joke.
At Search Circus, we believe that these horrible instances could have been prevented with more education. Our team recognizes the dangers of posting information whether it’s for promoting a business or personal networking that it has the potential of being read or seen by anyone, anywhere. Today’s generation is growing up in an environment where social networking online is part of every day life and Internet cruelty is a real threat. These issues need to be addressed in middle schools, high schools and colleges. Education IS prevention. If students are taught the horrible consequences of Internet bullying, we would see less of these tragic cases.
Children as well as young adults need to be taught that once something is online, it is there permanently and can often be accessed by anyone at any time. They also need to be taught that there are real consequences, including jail time for invading someone’s privacy by distributing videos or images online. Bringing the horror of Internet bullying to the forefront will allow today’s youth to see that it’s a serious matter and we think this will reduce the number of cases drastically.
Jim Steyer, founder of the Common Sense Media, a group that educates families about Internet safety told USA Today, “The genie is out of the bottle. This is where kids live today, period. And as a parent, you simply can’t shut it out and protect yourself from the brave new world of social media.” He also said that schools need to teach kids to respect others’ feelings and privacy online and “self-reflect before you self-reveal.” which is exactly what Search Circus believes. The Internet is here to stay. It can be a powerful learning tool but when used in the wrong way, can be dangerous. However, education is the key to keeping the Internet a safe place for our youth.