By: Jeff Simmermon at 05:59 pm
Last week, BoingBoing posted a video of an extremely angry father, screaming into a webcam at a faceless army of people who’d been using the Internet to threaten his 11-year-old daughter.
You should be warned that this video contains the sort of language that a furious father would use when addressing his daughter’s tormentors. Adjust your speakers accordingly:
It’s unfortunately and unintentionally hilarious. Apparently Jessi Slaughter, his 11-year-old daughter had been posting some fairly unpleasant — but ultimately harmless — videos of herself addressing the tween members of gossip site StickyDrama. The videos got picked up by a faceless army of Internet pranksters, who proceeded to make the Slaughter family’s life a living hell.
From Gawker’s exceptionally tight summary of the situation:
Jessi Slaughter’s real name, address and phone number was distributed widely via Internet pranksters… We spoke with Jessi’s mother, Dianne Leonhardt, on the phone today. She tells us the family has received a slew of harassing phone calls since the video went viral Thursday.
According to Leonhardt, some of those phone calls have been death threats, and the local sheriff’s department has launched a criminal investigation into the video. Jessi was placed under police protection and brought to a safe house soon after it went viral. She came home today, but she’s not online: A court order has barred her from using the Internet for at least three days.
So far, things haven’t escalated past phone calls and online vandalism of Jessi’s social-networking accounts. But Leonhardt says the family’s life has been completely upended by a stream of prank calls.” I’ve had people calling, impersonating themselves as cops, as child protection services,” she says.
And I mean, jeez. Even if Jessie Slaughter wasn’t exactly being her best self on StickyDrama, she’s still an 11-year-old girl whose parents probably aren’t really sure what she’s up to online. She doesn’t deserve all that.
I talk to my friend Jolene Wiggins about this sort of thing all the time. She’s the Senior Director of Audience Engagement over at RoadRunner’s High Speed Online, and the mother of a five-year old girl. And even though she and her husband know their little girl is going to start using the Internet one day, she’s nervous about it. She wrote a post about this topic on this very blog recently — here’s an excerpt:
I can’t express why I find the prospect so distressing: She’s too young for Facebook, for cyber-bullying, for illegal file sharing – for any of the million-and-one reasons that giving an older child access to the Internet might give me pause. Perhaps I’m thinking of those future realities. Perhaps it’s the understanding that this gateway to the Internet, once opened, will be tough to close. Perhaps I’m just not ready for this milestone.
I think the Jessie Slaughter case is exactly what a lot of parents didn’t even know they were afraid of for their kids online.
I’m not going to sit here and opine on the Slaughter family’s dynamic at all. For all I know, Mr. Slaughter is like a lot of parents who work hard and love their kids and don’t necessarily spend all day hunched over a computer in order to pay the rent. We’re still in the middle of a major cultural shift, and I’d imagine that Mr. Slaughter was not as far along as some other people in his understanding of Internet culture.
But one thing is pretty obvious: it’s really, really important to know what your kids are doing on the Internet and set some guidelines and restrictions. Cyberbullying is a pretty new thing, and it can be awful — and a lot of today’s parents barely know what it is, much less how to prevent it.
…youth 12-17 who reported no experience with cyberbullying were more likely to report filtering software on their computer, as well as parental rules regarding what websites they could visit, how much information they could share, and how long they could be online. Non-victims were also more likely to have the computer in a shared space, and report that their parents monitored their activity and/ or checked the websites they had visited.
It’s really important to us at Time Warner Cable to help however we can. Our CA Internet Security Suite 2010 is free to all of our Roadrunner subscribers, and offers the sort of parental controls a lot of people need, but too few people actually have.
The My Kids section of CA Internet Security Suite 2010 (CAISS 2010) provides parental controls that make it easy to set up Internet filtering and protect your kids from online predators, inappropriate content or illegal activities. You can learn more about it here, but here’s a few key features:
But remember, this is just software. It’s not the only answer — child safety should never be a “set it and forget it” kind of thing. There’s no substitute for conversations, guidance, and regular check-ins. But it’s bad to hover over a kid 24 hours a day, too. Parental controls just offer peace of mind.
Again, if you want to download CA Internet Security Suite 2010, you can get it here. If you have thoughts on this issue, on parenting and the Internet, or have feelings about our parental controls, please let us know in the comments.