Wednesday, January 17, 2007

That Lawyer Dude Is Cited in Newsday On The North Babylon "Wilding" or "Hopping" Incident

Big week for being cited by the MSM (Main Stream Media, as opposed to the blogging community)for That Lawyer Dude. First Fox.com and now these two stories in Newsday today.
The topic (sadly) is a wilding incident where three young women attacked another girl for no apparent reason (evidently it had something to do with a boy.)
Though the child who got beaten was not hurt, the incident passed by every one's notice until one of the kids or their friends put it up on the Internet. It went on some one's My Space.com and now it is all over the place.

The three aggressors have been suspended from school and now they are being prosecuted. I must admit if you see the video it looks pretty violent...then again assaults always seems violent. There is hair pulling and pinching and punching and pushing and probably a whole bunch of other stuff too (I think I saw kicking.)

On the other hand, it pretty much looks like every other fight I have ever seen. Whether it is now worth a criminal investigation is really questionable, but now that it is front page news, well we gotta have an investigation. Damn the expense there is a chance to be on a front page (or on Larry King Live.)

Now you maybe wondering why since I was quoted extensively I would be complaining. Well because the only reason anyone cares about this is because it is in the newspapers and on TV. I was shocked to see how little the interviewers (I was also vetted by CNN for their programs but I guess I wasn't willing to make enough out of it to be interesting to their viewers so they had Dr? Laura Schlessinger on to rant about our kids run amok.)

The incident does raise a lot of issues, but the least one is whether these kids need to be prosecuted. The girls have been suspended from school. This is even though the incident did not happen at their school or during school hours. It wasn't even an attack on a girl who goes to their school.

The issues I think are important are:
1. Why would they attack a girl 3 on 1?
2. Why did they film it?
3. After filming it, why did they put it up on one of their web pages?
4. What effect did reality TV playing in this?
5. What effect did violent entertainment (ie video games, TV, Movies etc)play here?
6. What if any responsibility does the hosting website have in this mess?
7. Why aren't the parents of these youngsters monitoring and editing their websites.

That kids fight, well, sadly that happens. Further it is probably age appropriate for 11-14 year olds. If I had been the principal, after I learned they had put the thing on the web, I too would have suspended the girls so that they would not be a distraction to other students. Had the item not appeared on the web and I learned of it I would have ordered peer counseling which has remarkable results on bullying, more than any other counseling I have seen in this age group when done correctly.

What makes this really scary, is the need of the girls to publically humiliate their victim, and to boast of their own violence on the Internet.

Our practice handles a lot of Internet/Cyber Crime. Up until lately that has been limited to Pornography, illegal Internet Gambling, Identity Theft, and of course Sexual Abuse. The addition of children (these are 13 and 14 year old girls) using the net to posit and boast or threaten other children is a burgeoning field. Every week we are getting more and more e-mails and phone calls about cyberstalking and calling people out.

It is in posts on My Space. It is not just on the weirdo sites anymore. It is on YouTube. There has always been a market for "backyard fighting" and such. These wilding incidents are just a push of the limits as to how far we will go to both protect the internet from censorship and to what controls we as adults will use to control our own kids.

For now, I am more a reporter of fact than I am a commentator. As a parent, and a lawyer I will tell other parents they have a right to snoop and check up on the internet use of their kids. Even so, there are limits how successful we can be. Our ability to monitor is difinitively going to be reduced as technology skyrockets. The new I-phones for example will be a huge test for us. When kids have them, even parents who are conscientious can easily loose track and control. Kids understand the technology much better than we do. These new smart phones will give kids access to the internet 24-7-365. Even the best of us cannot monitor that.

If we cannot monitor, what can we do?
*Well, for starters we can force internet companies like YouTube and My Space to take more responsiblity for monitoring their sites.

*We can to the best of our abilities monitor the sites our children use on the home or their personal computors.

*We can require the cellular phone companies provide us with detail bills of whom are children are sending text messages and MMS and other types of messages to.

*We can require e-mail to provide us with passwords to monitor our kids e-mail.

*Most importantly we can require that we talk to our kids. We need to find out if they are miffed at someone or if they are being threatened by someone. We can take phone calls from other parents who say their kid is afraid of our kids seriously. We can refuse to allow our kids to speak to us as they do thier friends. We can require civility.

*We can teach our kids about peace and love and even a higher power. We can stop eschewing formal religion and practice the ethics of the religion we adopt. We can be home when the kids get home, and we can be up and awake when they walk through the door.

Knowing that they will have to face us, and answer a host of imposing questions (like who were you with?, and where were you?, and what did you do?, etc) will be enough to slow most kids down. If nothing else, it's a start.
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