Parents: Please Read! (RE: Jessi Slaughter)

Okay, folks. It’s Saturday, but I’m making a rare blog post because I have some things to say to parents, and I want to make sure I’ve got them down on paper while my thoughts are still fresh.

First question: have you heard about Jessi Slaughter? I hadn’t until about a half hour ago, but I’ve been doing some quick reading since then. I would link to the sites, but frankly, I haven’t found one yet that doesn’t have really objectionable material on it, so I’m not going to. I’ll give you a rundown of the facts, and if you want more info, you can just Google it out for yourself.

From what I gather, Jessi Slaughter (not her real name) is an 11 year old girl who has been posting videos of herself to YouTube for quite sometime. These aren’t cute little videos of a girl playing with Barbies or chatting about ponies. These are hardcore profanity laced tirades that are worse than the dialogue of any book or movie I’ve ever seen. And I mean that quite literally. I started watching one of her videos, and I had to stop. It would have been horrendous if an adult were saying those things. For an 11 year old girl to be saying them? Words fail to express how abhorrent I find it. She describes in detail her wildly promiscuous sex life, she makes very elaborate death threats, she . . . I’m just not going to go on about what she does. Suffice it to say, she’s no angel, although of course I also seriously doubt that any of the things she’s saying are in any way true.

But for better or worse, apparently she was making quite the name for herself in a certain circle of fans of a certain emo band. And things were starting to get nasty. Some people posted mean comments about her, and she responded by putting up a four minute rant against those people, basically going on and on about how cool she was, how little she cared what other people thought, and what she was going to do to people who didn’t like her.

Her “haters” responded by posting this video to 4chan. If you don’t know what 4chan is, please DON’T Google it. It’s one of the cess pools of the internet. A regular hive mind, where hordes of anonymous internet users and hackers get together and talk about everything you can imagine. They’re well known for being merciless about anything they don’t like. In this case, they decided Jessi needed to be taken down a notch or twelve. How did they do this, since Jessi hadn’t posted under her real name? I mean, all she’d done was put up some awful internet videos, right? It wasn’t like anyone could do anything real to her.

You or I might not be able to, but trust me: 4chan can. They found out her real name, her address, her phone number. And they shared all of that with each other. Jessi started getting prank phone calls, pizza delivered to her house. They debated sending call girls from Craigslist. They found out her Facebook and Myspace accounts, and they spammed them, taunting her. They edited videos of her, pictures of her–you name it. In a flash, she and her family were bombarded from all sides.

As vile as the things she was saying online were, she’s still just an 11 year old girl. She didn’t deserve this.

What did her parents do? Well . . . they did this. Parents, if your child ever gets into this situation, getting on a web cam and calling out the internet isn’t the solution. If you have no clue what you’re talking about (saying you “back traced” the postings and that you’ve reported them to the “cyberpolice”?), shouting, pointing your finger at the camera and acting like an idiot are only going to make things worse. And of course, that’s just what they did. 4chan loves a good meme, and they’ve already sliced and diced the dad’s diatribe into many different videos. This one, for example.

The internet has a long memory, parents. I’m confident that this dad’s tirade will be used countless times in the future to poke fun at him and whatever else people want to poke fun at. It’s going to have a life of its own, and there’s nothing that can be done to stop it now.

So. What do I have to say about all of this? First of all, if you’re a parent, I think you are obligated to KNOW WHAT YOUR CHILD IS DOING ONLINE! Pardon the all caps, but what parent gives their daughter a webcam and then doesn’t monitor her use of it? This should never have gotten to the level that it got. I don’t care if you are clueless when it comes to computers. If that’s the case, either keep them out of your home, or start learning now. There are plenty of sites online that are more than happy to teach you everything you could want to know about how to use computers, the internet and anything else. Ignorance is not an excuse. To me, it’s just a symptom of laziness.

If you haven’t been checking with your child about his/her internet activities, start today. Sit down with them and make some ground rules. Enforce them. There are far too many news stories I’ve read about children dealing with cyber bullying–even committing suicide because of it–for you to ignore any aspect of this.

Don’t assume that just because your family computer is in the family room, you don’t have to worry about this. Does your child have an iPhone? A different smart phone? An XBox? PS3? Wii? These all hook up to the internet. They all have webcams you can get for them. When I say you have to monitor their internet use–that’s ALL their internet use.

And if you should ever find yourself in the situation of Jessi’s parents, don’t make an internet video to respond. I’ve been reading some allegations now that her parents are in on it, and that they made the video to help her gain even more notoriety. I really hope that’s not the case, because then, Jessi would have been doing all of these posts with parental approval, and that’s just wrong.

Anyway–back to my Saturday.

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