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May 02, 2008

Katie Couric on Mean Girls (And Boys) Online

Katie_3 ...cross posted from our sister site, New York City Moms Blog.  Written by guest contributor, Katie Couric.

Juicey_2 The hullabaloo over Miley Cyrus has died down.  My mom said in her inimitable way that “Vanity Fair should be ashamed of itself.”   I think it’s a shame that the magazine, her parents and her managers didn’t handle it better, and there is  nothing  more  troubling and insidious  than  the premature sexualization of teen stars, and really the oversexualization of just about any woman on TV today.  But that’s for another time.

A lot of Moms I know have been thinking about the dark side of the Internet.  I’m not talking about porn sites and pedophile chat rooms, but the idea that the Internet has become a dumping ground, literally, for cruel comments, ostracization and just generally rude and uncivil behavior.  Are some of these sites playing to our basest instinct, the very worst of human nature?

I’ve always been slightly amazed at the vitriolic nature of some blog postings I’ve read, and the exchanges between those who are not “like minded” to say the least.  But now kids are heading to places where they not only unload on their friends and classmates, but unleash the most scurrilous and cruel critiques--all anonymously.

There’s an honesty box you can opt for on your Facebook page that can be a blank slate for anonymous insults from your “friends.”  Then there’s this Juicycampus.com--a website where college kids post completely anonymous gossip about classmates.  At last count it was available on about 60 campuses already, and there’s no telling how many people have been hurt by the nasty comments. You only have to think of the devastation this can have on fragile, developing psyches.  Malicious gossip and back stabbing are nothing new, but somehow when you see it up there in black and white, it’s really disturbing.

I read that a college junior from Baylor was called “the biggest slut on campus,” students at UC Irvine discussed the “most promiscuous sorority girls” at their school.  The Juicycampus website says it has guidelines about defamation, but do the unfortunate students who’ve seen their names there believe that?

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