It’s a tale of a blessing and a curse.
For those of us who use social media like Facebook, Twitter, etc., responsibly, it’s a beautiful thing. We reach out to our audience and give them breaking news, story links, video links, links to other content across the Web. And often they reach back – a give and take relationship that has blossomed.
For others – and age really doesn’t have much to do with it – it’s a vehicle for bad stuff like trolling for sex with vulnerable young people, for thieves out to steal your money and seemingly more popular, for posting pictures, videos, Tweets and status reports that include booze, drugs and gosh who knows what. And this is especially true for the younger folks.
How often have you seen, even from your own kids, Facebook pages, YouTube videos, other random videos and other “stuff” with them drinking, smoking (all sorts of things) and posting information that has no place in cyberspace. When you’re young I suppose you don’t really think about it. Even in my own house the oldest of the gang has taken action removing pictures, posts, anything remotely questionable. He recognizes that this sort of stuff can come back to haunt you.
Well, in nearby Lower Merion, says the Associated Press, school officials sent a letter out this week to parents of all Lower Merion and Harriton High students alerting families about disturbing videos of current district high school students and former students that were found on the Internet recently.
This story from the AP:
“According to the letter, the videos come from a private company and were posted to YouTube. Although the video is no longer online, school officials viewed and then shared it with local police. The letter was signed by Steven Kline, principal at Harriton, and Sean Hughes, principal at Lower Merion.
““The activities depicted in the video are reprehensible and cause for great concern. They include binge drinking, marijuana use, substance-induced violence and several dangerous situations involving drugs and alcohol in vehicles. Though all of the activities occur off campus, and the film appears to have been recorded last summer, it is critical that there are swift and appropriate consequences,” the letter reads in part.
“According to officials, the district only learned about the video Tuesday when a CBS 3 reporter went to them asking if they knew about the videos. The videos are part of what are being called mini-documentaries being produced under the name ‘I’m Shmacked.’
“The ‘I’m Shmacked’ Twitter and Facebook pages describe the plot as ‘a movie documenting the experience of a weekend at 20 of the best and biggest universities around the United States intertwined with a book and a Web site being pitched to major publishers and studios.’ As of Wednesday morning video trailers at both Penn State and Temple were on YouTube, along with videos from other schools.
The videos start off by showing scenes around the campuses with music playing in the background. The trailers then morph into showing students drinking and in some cases using drugs.
“KYW 3’s Walt Hunter reported that he reached out to one of the Lower Merion students who made the movie. ‘No actual marijuana was used in the video, just synthetic legal buds that are used as props for our film. The alcohol is also just non-alcoholic beverages in other containers,’ the unnamed student wrote back.
“School officials say they are taking the matter seriously.
“‘Where we have the authority and power to act and respond, we will. We are in the process of notifying parents of students that appear in the video and will do so by Thursday afternoon. We ask for continued parental support in conveying the dangers of alcohol and substance abuse,’ the letter reads.
“When asked about the letter after Tuesday night’s school board meeting at Lower Merion High School, Doug Young, the district’s director of School and Community Relations, said he could not comment beyond what is in the letter. However, the letter does go into some detail without mentioning names or punishment.
“’The video also serves as a reminder that whether or not your child is engaging in harmful and illegal activities, there may still be significant consequences for attending events where such activities occur. In this age of social media and immediate electronic communication, video and/or photographic images often do not distinguish the ‘innocent’ from the ‘guilty.’ Students that participate in school sports or other competitive activities may face a team suspension even if they haven’t had a sip of beer, but are found to have been ‘in the room’ at a party where alcohol is served. On the line are college acceptances, scholarships and personal reputation. It’s simply not worth the risk,’ the letter reads.”
Before we go any further, not real weed? Fake booze? OK, I realize we as parents can be clueless at times, but do these kids really think we’re that stupid?
Now I must say I do admire them for their business savvy. They saw a growing market and attacked it with a plan. However, the last thing I want to see my kids doing is appearing in a video where (real or not) they are smoking, drinking and/or doing drugs. I’m not sure that’s the best way to impress a potential employer, admissions officer or those willing to hand out college grant money. Don’t think it can happen? Think again.
The reality of all this, though, is that we can’t tell our kids much on the subject. Their answer is always that it’s no big deal, that kids do it to be funny, etc. And the truth is, before the YouTubes and Facebooks of the world came along, there wasn’t the potential for the disasters that are there now. Of course, it is always wrong to do illegal stuff but 20 years ago it wasn’t out there for the whole world to see.
So the message today children is to see how the “bigger kids” are learning from their mistakes and hopefully you won’t make those same mistakes. If you do, you may regret it in a big way.
— Andy Hachadorian