I am a big fan of Social Media. Social Media has many advantages and have enabled and empowered people to do amazing them (think the Arab Spring). Social Media gives to individual great power to communicate widely and quickly to the world in ways that would have been impossible when I was a teenager (and that wasn’t really that long ago … seriously I am not THAT old). But as Voltaire and Spiderman’s Uncle Ben have said “with great power comes great responsibility”. And I think a group of girls from Adelaide have learnt a very hard lesson about abusing their social media power and are now responsible for endangering both themselves and others … and creating a digital stain on their reputation that may last their entire lives.
So what is GOBS 2012?
This week unless you have been under a rock or just to busy with Autism Awareness activities and events you may have seen that a group of school girls from Mitcham Girls School creatd and uploaded a video to Youtube in an attempted spoof of KONY 2012 called GOBS 2012. The video shows three three girls in school uniform offering sexual favours in exchange for small amounts of cash as a public service to help prevent unwanted sexual attacks on others. At one point they say, “We are trained professionals, so we are up for anything.” And somehow, while it might seem impossible to do, they made this story worse by shooting it near the memorial to the former student Carly Ryan a victim of a cyber predator who was lured to her death five years ago after meeting who she thought was a dream boyfriend.
In the video, the girls suggest the video should be forwarded on,”Share this video around to all your friends so we can get the guys to get all the … they need.” And it was … in less than 24 hours the video had gone viral shared on social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr and viewed in its original instance by at least 10,000 people. It was pulled down on YouTube and copies on social websites are continuing to be removed, new versions of the video are being uploaded just as quickly.
Should they have known better? Hadn’t these girls been warned?
The girls had been warned. Crime prevention officers had delivering no less than six education sessions at the school last year, covering topics such as the dangers of social networking, sexting and cyber bullying. A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said that “Mitcham Girls High School has a strict cyber safety policy in place and has reinforced this with students and parents to remind them of the importance of using the internet in a safe manner.”
But not all agree that this is enough … Dr Carr-Gregg, chairperson of the Cybersafety Committee told told 891 Breakfast said thus was “indicative of a spectacular failure in terms of our education system, because we failed to equip these three girls with skills, the knowledge and the strategies around keeping themselves safe online.” Dr Carr-Gregg said it highlighted the deficiencies of Department of Education in South Australia who had not adopted the e-smart school program which Victoria and Queensland had implemented.
So what are the consequences of their actions …
In a statements made by the police this week said they were yet to conduct formal interviews with each girl but considered the incident a stunt.“At this time, it is unlikely the students will face criminal charges in relation to their actions,” a police spokesperson said. “It appears the girls involved in this incident were participating in a stunt and unaware of the dangers and repercussions their action would have.”
Prime Minister Gillard has chided the schools girls saying that it was a “very, very silly thing to do and they are now caught up in the consequences of it”. She also remarked that “It does remind us all the internet, the age we live in, is full of tremendous possibilities, we live and work differently than we ever have before, but there are also real dangers and we have got to remind kids of those real dangers of getting on the internet. Once something is up there the reality is you can never take it back and you don’t know who is on the other end having a look and responding and sending you stuff as a result.”
Bullying expert and UniSA senior education lecturer Barbara Spears advised news.com.au said the girls had made themselves and other students vulnerable to “predators who seek out girls online to watch for their own prurient interest”.
My thoughts …
I think that Social Media is an amazing thing … that can unite people and empower people to come together, share ideas and bring about social change. But if the pen is mightier than the sword … then what would be social media be? like an atomic bomb? … While social medi has the power to do great good it can also be used in the wrong hands equal harm. I think these girls have … like many teenagers have before ignored the warnings of adults and done something foolish …. but unlike in the past where the dangers, in most cases, were more short-term and with minimal public exposure … they can now expose themselves to the world, attracting the ‘wrong type of people’ from a much larger (and more dangerous demographic) and leave a digital legacy that may haunt them for the rest of their lives … is this fair … no. More needs to be done to educate, warn and help students understand the risks, responsibilities and benefits of using new communication tools including social media. But we must always realise that no matter how clear or often the message is sent there will always be a few that ignore it and take the risk.