Are teens meaner online?

admin | 3/15/2012, 5:26 a.m.

The wonders of the internet are allowing individuals separated by thousands of miles to connect and share their interests, their views and apparently their hate. Last month, a video recently posted on Youtube and WorldStarHipHop.com, showed three men kicking and punching a gay man, Brandon White, without provocation only because of his sexuality after he exited a convenience store in Atlanta. After White fell to the ground, one of his assailants even grabbed a car tire and hit him with it. Near the end of February, his three attackers were eventually arrested and charged with assault. The suspects were caught using good old-fashioned police work, utilizing informants and using police officers to investigate the case, according to Sgt. Curtis Davenport of the Atlanta Police Departments Public Affairs Unit. People displaying cruel and even criminal behavior is not new. However, the rise of social media has allowed more people to broadcast their actions to larger audiences, faster than ever before. For example, another pair of youth attending a Gainesville high school posted a racist rant on YouTube in February. Perhaps the teens did not receive the exposure for which they had hoped. They have since issued public apologies for their behavior, but they are reportedly suffering from depression because of death threats they say they have received. As outrageous as it seems to document criminal behavior by using new media technology, the truth is that it is unknown how many people choose to do so, according to Davenport. What is known is that social media continues to explode in popularity. Among seven in 10 Black Internet users, also use social networking sites, such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.Among teens who are using the Internet across all ethnic lines, 73 percent use social networking sites. And while Velma Lawrence, the president of the local girls mentoring program, Embrace Girls Foundation, Inc., praises the Internet and social media usage, she teaches her students to use caution when going online. They dont understand the consequences. I tell them if you put it out there in the space for everyone to see and you can never take that down and they dont understand that it will follow them for the rest of their lives, she said. Throughout the year, the foundation hosts seminars teaching girls, from ages 4 to 13, how to navigate the sites as well as the consequences and benefits of using the internet. However, ultimately, it is up to every individual to choose how they will use the Internet, according to Lawrence. Kids are going to do what they want to do no matter what. she said. But I can give them the tools and the information so they can make [smart] decisions. By Kaila Heardkheard@miamitimesonline.com