Being a teenager sucks. Emotions run off the hinges and bullies are downright cruel. It seems the entire scope of human misery can play out over a soggy roast beef sandwich in the school cafeteria. But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is thinking you’re alone.
I always championed the internet as a means of discovering you aren’t. There are outlets for teenagers to collectively wallow in their angst, as well as communities that help gay and lesbian teenagers find friendship and support, despite alienating circumstances.
But then I read about Tyler Clementi, the 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate secretly broadcast his sexual encounter with a man in his dormroom via webcam. It reminded me that there is a dark side to the power-at-your-fingertips, that the internet is a neutral force with equal potential to be used for good or for evil. Dharun Ravi, Clementi’s roommate, and Molly Wei, his accomplice (who were both charged with privacy invasion) hit the depths of the latter use.
The question is, after seeing this depth, where do we go from here?
The internet is hard to regulate. The maniacal urge that has driven teenagers to bully each other since the dawn of…teenagers…is hard to regulate.
An increase in privacy evasion laws, to make them more of an offense?
More support systems for teens in need?
What do you think we can do to prevent these tragedies in the future?
Ellen Degeneres on the crisis of teenage bullying