when, in my opinion, it is more often then not individual that misuses them that creates the problem?
A word of warning before you read on – this story upset me so much earlier this week that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. As such I feel I have to write this blog because without conversations around this area I fear our society is heading down a black “cyber hole” that holds no responsibility. Please know though I respect your right to stop reading right now and catch me next week.
If you are still here, here goes.
It’s not often I will start crying just because I’ve heard something on the news. The sad reality is that 99.9% of the news these days would bring most of us to tears if we were not so desensitized, so to actually elicit more than a heart murmur is a pretty unusual outcome.
But earlier this week I found myself driving to work and hearing a story of the radio that literally made me pull over. Many of you may have heard it also – the outrage that was vented at Facebook as images of a gorgeous smiling 17 year old Canadian girl got used in an advertising campaign for an online dating service.
That her image had been used without her permission was in and of itself bad enough. The fact this gorgeous girl – Rehtaeh Parsons – had committed suicide some time beforehand made it literally heart breaking.
Suicide is never explainable – in looking into this story it seems her decision was made following two years of “cyber bullying” and taunting by classmates and that this had all been prompted by the circulation of images of her being “allegedly gang raped by four boys”.
SIDE NOTE: I hate that the word allegedly even appears in my writing or the reporting around this event but I understand that without being there we can’t know what really happened. What I do know though is despite what may or may not have been the circumstances around that first experience, the fact that photos were taken and distributed broadly, is disgusting!
The story I heard in my car though was not about the alleged rape or the cyber bullying and taunting leading to her suicide – it was a story of outrage directed at Facebook for letting her image turn up in an advertisement ……. and here I’d like you to stop and reflect because this is where I got upset.
I mean have we really hit the point where the news in this incredibly sad story was the fact that an image was used in an advertising campaign?
Surely the news here should have been the sadness associated with the loss of life of someone so young, or the pain that she must have endured for two years prior to giving up. Of a generation that I fear we are loosing in a virtual world where there are no moral guardians to say “no – that’s not o.k.”
With that said then this is the question that I’ve struggled with for the last two days – is what I described above really the fault of the technology that was used or is it a much bigger issue for our society in terms of what we are teaching and accepting from our younger generation.
As far as I know, Facebook doesn’t take photos by itself (or at least not yet). Neither does Instagram or any other online social networking platform. People on the other hand do.
I know when I was young I did some silly things – I’m sure most of us did. But thankfully for me no-one ever pulled their “box brownie” from their pocket to take a photo in that moment, to then send to thousands of people I didn’t even know.
To quote someone who I believe must have been an incredible woman, “With great freedom comes great responsibility” (Eleanor Roosevelt) and for me that’s the challenge I think we all need to face up to.
In this new world surely there has never been a greater obligation on us as parents, carers and mentors to the young to help them understand the consequences of their actions and the power of the moment in which they make a good or bad decision. To teach them that these tools are not a forum in which they drop all manners and moral obligations but rather are simply channels for sharing information.
You wouldn’t let your child drive a car without lessons, you wouldn’t give them access to the editorial of the highest rating news paper in the country without coaching and an editor – so why it is that so many kids are given free rein with technology?
Recently my Mr 10 locked his iTouch up. I took it to an Apple store to be repaired and once reset tried to sync it back to my iTunes account. I messed up and the young guy behind the counter had to help me again. Once reset though he told me I should just “set up” an iTunes account for my son. He actually used the phrase “get with the times”. While I nearly went there I declined because it didn’t feel right.
It wasn’t until I was out of the shop though that I realised what had stopped me – you see in that moment I had understood that it wasn’t my responsibility as a parent to keep my kid “up with the times” – it’s my responsibility to help him develop the skills to navigate life in a way that amplifies his capacity to be an amazing human being. To ensure his morals are set regardless of what environment he finds himself in.
Societal pressure has a way of leading us all down the easy path. Of letting us assume because everyone else “is”, there’s no harm in us following. But as parents, carers and mentors I think that’s opting out.
Sorry kids but this mum is clearly “opting in” x