Dark Side of the Internet

Jim Liebelt | Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University | Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dark Side of the Internet

Just in case you had any doubts that there is a darker side to the Internet (and I'm not even referring to Internet pornography) consider this current example:

• Eleven-year-old Jessie Leonhardt (aka "Jessi Slaughter" and "kerligirl13") has a computer, unsupervised internet access, and web cam - with her parents' approval.

• Through her online interactions, she started collecting "haters" - people who would post negative comments about her and her posts.

• Jessie responded to the "haters" by recording and uploading a video of herself - in a verbally explicit rant against them (one that might make Mel Gibson proud).

• Given the viral nature of online video, the video was re-posted repeatedly and ended up on a popular "trolling" website. These websites are known for attracting people whose intent is to select individuals and harass them online and offline.

• Internet users began attacking Jessie online with comments, posting her personal information (address, phone number, email, social networking information). Jessie's family was deluged with phone calls, pranks, and threats.

• Jessie posted another video (crying) and her dad jumped in and began yelling into the camera. This video went viral also. Some of the Jessie videos have received over a million views.

• The harassment continued with posts of rumors that her father had given Jessie PCP and that she had committed suicide.

• Jessie was eventually placed in protective police custody.

What can parents learn from this? Jessie's story underscores the importance of proactive parental supervision of their kids' Internet usage.

In an interview with the website MomLogic, Jessie's mother remarked that all of Jessie's friends have computers and web cams and that they video chat with each other. She said that she was unaware that Jessie had been making videos. She said that she can't be in the room with Jessie 24/7.

But, Jessie IS ONLY eleven-years-old, has acquired knowledge and vocabulary that would make many adults blush, and clearly Mom and Dad did not set any sort of appropriate boundaries or consequences for violating their expectations.

The Internet is perhaps the most powerful information and communication tool ever invented. But, it does have a dark side. In my mind, while I understand that even in the best circumstances parenting is difficult, the major cause of this sad story has to do with Mom and Dad's lack of proactive and protective parenting.

Source: Momlogic
Warning: The videos embedded in the Momlogic link below contain explicit language.