A newspaper article I read over the weekend described an incident that took place at a suburban high school last week. It seems one boy thought another boy was "talking trash" about him. He wanted revenge for the alleged "trash talking," so he waited in the hall for his supposed nemesis, caught him by surprise, and sucker punched him to the head. To add insult to injury, and to further humiliate the victim, the assaulter had an accomplice waiting with his smartphone to catch this all on video and posted the assault immediately to twitter and facebook. Gotta get a good audience!
The victim, who claimed he didn't even know this guy, suffered significant damage to his eye. There is no "boys will be boys" explanation here. In the old days, there might have been a fight out by the apple orchard, at least that's where the fights took place when I was in high school. I hate fighting of any kind, but at least in those fights, the opponents were prepared to fight each other. You will be happy to know that both of the boys, the brute and his video accomplice were arrested and charged with assault and battery, and disturbing an assembly, whatever that means.
For me, it is not only about the brutality, but also about the video-taping and posting on twitter and facebook that was equally egregious. These boys wanted to put on a show. They wanted their 30 seconds of fame, in hopes I'm sure, that the video would go viral, cause that's what happens to outrageous videos right? And then they would be famous!
Maybe the incident would have happened anyway, but my suspicion is that the taping of the fight became almost more important than the fight itself, or even the alleged reason for the attack. If I have said this once, I have said this a thousand times. DO NOT ARM YOUR TEEN WITH A SMARTPHONE!!!! Teens are impulsive! Teens often lack self-control! Teens love attention! Teens love drama! An instrument that can record things and then immediately post them to places where thousands of their closest friends can be impressed with whatever prowess they are selling, be it violence, sex, or downright humiliation, is addictive!!!!So is facebooking during school, shopping on line, or watching porn during lunch in the bathroom. These things really happen, and you would never know, cause once your teen has a smartphone, you don't know what the hell they are doing with it.
This week I have had a rash of coaching requests from parents dealing with smartphone video and picture posting issues. When I asked parents to provide reasons for giving their teen this instrument of power and distraction, all I got was they asked for it, or, I was getting one, so I got a good deal on buying a bunch. When I asked whether they thought through any of the potential consequences for giving their teen the smartphone, they individually and collectively said NO. Well, here are the consequences. Two boys arrested, one boy with an injured eye. Earlier this year I wrote about teens videotaping their inexperienced teacher, and posting this embarrassing moment in the classroom immediately on facebook for the whole school to see. Consequence: teacher humiliated, two students arrested.
I think you can tell how I feel about this issue. Please think through giving your teen a smartphone and all the possible consequences. Make a pro-con list. And please let me know if anything makes it into the pro list, that a regular old flip phone can't accommodate. Really, I want to know!