Sunday, August 16, 2015

Dangers of Bad Media

I finally got around to watching the viral YouTube video by Coby Persin titled "The Dangers of Social Media (Child Predator Social Experiment)."

Needless to say, I was appalled. However, probably not for the reason you'd think.

The premise is that Persin, after securing consent from the parents, attempts to chat up underage girls while telling them he is a 15 year old boy via his fake Facebook account. After a few days of communication, he convinces them to meet him in person. Persin brings along their parents for the "gotcha" moment.

To me, the real failures here undeniably lie with the parents.

First, the obvious lack of relationship these girls have with their parents.  The first two explicitly state that their dad's have to be out of the picture for this to occur. And judging by the reactions of the parents to the mistakes made by their daughters, I can see why they are afraid of talking to their parents about things like this.

Secondly, the biggest failure to me, is how they follow up on the "gotcha" moment.  It turns into the parents angrily berating the teenagers in rage-induced shame sessions for their failure in not being wary enough of STRANGER DANGER.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm all about open and frank discussions with children and teens about the dangers of social media, online/real-life predators and internet safety in general. But I echo the thoughts of Lenore Skenazy, author of Free Range Kids, who wrote about this video:

"(The Dangers of Social Media) reinforces the idea that every child is in constant danger from strangers, and that's not the case. I think it's worthwhile to have a conversation with your kids and tell them that they can talk to anyone, but they cannot go off with anyone. I'm not saying that this never happens, but what disturbs me about our culture is that we are encouraged to think in terms of the worst-case scenario in every situation."

The real danger of these videos is that we are falsely teaching our children that they are in constant danger of being abducted by unknown predators and that such occurrences are commonplace. The sad truth is, the overwhelming majority of crimes against children are committed by people they already know.

After watching this, I think the one lesson these teens learned most of all is not to trust their parents. I guess the viral video will probably help these girls explain to their future psychologists why they are seeking counseling.

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