That girl's got it together
Things I learned on the long weekend

I read stuff like this...

...and I really get worried about how I will parent children growing up with the internet. 

They're Back, and They're Bad: Campus-Gossip Web Sites

Students have more ways than ever to post anonymous attacks on classmates, thanks (or rather, no thanks) to new and expanded online forums promising to be bigger and juicier than the infamous JuicyCampus, which drew fierce protests from harassed students before it shut down earlier this year.

"This is the new JuicyCampus," says a note at Campus Gossip, which boasts campus-specific message boards for hundreds of colleges and encourages anonymous and racy barbs such as "These Fellas got herpes," with a list of names attached. Going even further than its predecessor, there's also a photo section where students can post embarrassing pictures and videos of others.

(Read the rest here)

I wandered over to the site (which I don't even want to name) and it was full of misogynist crap, foul mouthed hate and just stupid remarks about college, fraternities, certain specific people and inanities. 

I know there has always been gossip.  Mean boys and girls who spread rumours to wield power.  Titterings in the bathroom about so-and-so and her new boyfriend.  I do it too; and I know it's not very nice.  But I also have some sense about when and where I have these discussions.  I don't write them down.  I don't post them anonymously on some website.  I certainly don't NAME people in writing in public forums. 

I can't imagine how it would feel to see my name on a website which disparages me as a slut or as too ugly to sleep with or which in any other way assesses my appropriateness as the object of partriarchy uber-babeness.  First off, I don't fucking care how I rate in the hotness contest of my oppression, but more than that, why would those making the posts think this is okay or free-speech? 

And how do a you a) keep your kids from doing stuff like this and b) keep your kids from being the subject of this stuff?

As someone who spends a lot of time on the internet--facebook (which I really don't like), twitter, the blog, ravelry etc--I know that it's part of the world and has much to offer.  I connect with all sorts of people I would never otherwise meet and 99% of the time they are good, interesting, generous, smart people.  They are also, for the most part, of my generation and like me straddle the thin line that has them out there in the world wide web while also trying to keep some boundaries on their privacy. 

Believe it or not, I don't tell you everything about my life here.  ;)

But I might share it on a closed message board with people I "know" (at least virtually) and trust.  I gauge my disclosures on the forum in which they will be released, but it seems like these gossip sites don't promote the same filters and younger people don't seem to even consider the consequences of their postings.  That the facebook photos of them puking at some party today, are going to be around forever and might not seem to so funny when they're applying for a job or wanting to volunteer at their kid's Scout troop.

While I write that, I feel that "in my day, people knew about respect" speech my mother/grandmother/great-grandmother gave and I feel a bit old.  But really it's the truth.  I suppose that respect and decorum have to be learned.  And yes, my kids are going to learn it.  While I can't completely control what they say, I can enforce the idea that gossip isn't nice and that gossiping in a public forum on the internet or texting is wrong, wrong, wrong.  I can tell them to think about how they would feel if someone did that to them and teach them to challenge others who are doing these things and not stand by and let it happen to some other kid.

As for protecting them from others, well I have to trust there are more of me's out there telling their kids the same thing.  There better be...


Comments

Well said. Thank you for sharing.

very well said. I worry about my grandchildren. the internet was not so pervasive when my girls were teens but now. . . and they have had 4 high school children killed by trains in Palo Alto recently (almost certainly suicides). my daughter's family moved there the beginning of the year & we were surprised to find out that the schools do not have an anti-bullying policy (almost all the school districts in the chicago area do.) and it is a town full of type A personalities like Silicon Valley types & Stanford college professors. and many of the parents don't even seem to notice when their children behave in an unacceptable manner (openly bullying smaller children)

My DIL took her elementary level children out of the school due to bullying. She worked in the school and still could not get the principal to acknowledge the damage bullying was doing not just to her children but to many others. My grandson was even diagnosed with PTSD because of it. Luckily, my DIL is able to homeschool them and this has turned out to be good decision. Hard, but good. They belong to several homeschooling groups which provides social interaction with other children, but none of the parents in these groups tolerates bullying. Unfortunately, the internet has allowed the bullies of the world free reign. Sad to say just how many of them exist.

I read that article yesterday, too, and was just disgusted. My kids are 8 and 5 and, at those ages, nowhere near the internet. But I teach at a US university and I worry about some of my students and am occasionally appalled by student behavior. It's one of the reasons I joined FB and let my students know I'm there--I want them to realize that their internet lives are not anonymous, not some protected zone of late-teenage-foolishness that vanishes when they either shut the computer off or leave campus.
On another note:
I had an undergrad acquaintance once, at the University of Utah, of all places, who wore an amazing t-shirt: Fuck you and your fascist beauty standards.
It was awesome.

Schools here, in NYC, have a zero tolerance for bullying so I've heard of little to none of it going on in either of my children's schools. As for online bullying, mine are only twelve and fourteen year old boys and they'd rather play WoW or Runescape. Also they're closely monitored and are only allowed a limited amount of online time.

I'm glad I'm not a kid now. I put up with tons of bullying and "mean girl" behavior (girl bullying tends to differ from boy bullying by being more devious and more "verbal" - in the sense of starting mean rumors). It was bad enough that I think it affected my personality: I am less outgoing, more fearful of rejection, less prone to speak my mind.

I can't imagine how awful it would be if some of the mean girls I went to school with had Web capabilities.

It may be the only thing parents can do is try to equip their kids with enough toughness to withstand it. (My mother often bemoans that she taught my brother and me to be "too nice" and we found it harder to defend ourselves). Or pulling them out of school. (I would very likely homeschool, if I had a child and could afford to do so).

But really, this is everywhere in society. There's a site called Rate My Professors which I REFUSE to look at (though I am a professor) because I really don't want to know the warts-and-all of what my students think of me (or what they claim to think of me).

It's sad how anonymity and lack of fear of reprisal seems to ramp up the meanness.

In my view a lot of the problems that kids have on the net stem from a lack of understanding about how the net operates and how they can control what happens to them (or at least how much they let it affect them). How often have I heard people bewail the behaviour of children on the net, only to discover that they themselves are net illiterate? And if 5 and 8-year olds are unfamiliar with the net, that is a danger signal to me. They will surely have net access at school (or maybe US schools don't?) Much better to have them familiar at home with simple safe sites from an early age, and monitor their expanding access as they grow.

As with all other social situations, you attempt to equip your kids with the skills to manage the net, and you hope like hell they take notice of you. Remember 'sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never harm me'?

I'm already worried about the stuff I see on my step-daughter's face book page (and the pictures I see there). I can't get my mind around what they'd do on a site like the one in that article.

I tell my girls... probably far more frequently than they'd like ... what you put on the net STAYS on the net, long past the time you'll be happy having it there. Think about the fact that EVERYONE can see it. I wonder if they get it.

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