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Video: Teens facing adult charges

Helen Popkin
By
msnbc.com
updated 4/9/2008 8:04:05 PM ET 2008-04-10T00:04:05

Apparently, YouTube and MySpace totally kicked the crud out of a Florida cheerleader. Adding insult to injury, these notoriously wicked Web sites also filmed their beatdown and uploaded the 30-minute slugfest to the completely compliant Internet for all to see.

At least that’s what parents of both the victim and at least one of the teenage girls accused of the assault claim. Despite what the video reveals — or appears to reveal — at least two moms assert that the fault lies not with the girls involved or anyone’s specious parenting skills. Once again, the Internet has blood on its virtual hands.

“I don't understand it," the victim’s mom tearfully told the TODAY Show. “I don't understand how our society has gotten through peer pressure to our kids that's it’s OK to act in violence and then want to post it on MySpace or YouTube or anywhere else, just for entertainment and a laugh."

Hmmmm … if only there are any clues. Oh wait! Here’s one now …

In a separate TODAY Show appearance, Christina Garcia, whose 17-year-old offspring hosted the brawl, defended her daughter to host Matt Lauer. While she concedes her girl should’ve called the police, she added “Mercades, my daughter, warned this girl before she came into the house.”

Garcia says her blameless daughter told the victim, “The two girls that you have been running your mouth about and threatening on MySpace are in the house. Please do not go in the house.”

Got it? Now, here comes the classic “Jack McCoy totally just busted you on the witness stand Law & Order” moment: Garcia knows for a fact that her daughter relayed this information to the victim because, as she elaborated to Lauer, an adult in the home next door heard her daughter say that.

Ka-chunk!

So, aside from two parents who seem to have no compunction about going on national television to discuss their daughters' victimization or alleged crime, there’s a third grown-up involved who overheard a notice of impending teenage violence and took no action. OK, this unnamed party makes an excellent witness for the prosecution (conspiracy to commit, ya’ll), but c’mon!

Of course, accused sentient Web sites MySpace and YouTube probably knew about the upcoming attack, too. Neither of them bothered to try and stop the violence. Though, one might argue that at 5- and 3-years old respectively, neither cyber-entity is at the age of consent.

Along with negating psychic possession, however, unless MySpace and YouTube put their non-existent hands up the behinds of the accused teens and threw them around like Punch and Judy, social networking sites shouldn’t shoulder this blame. Paging Dr. Freud … we need to talk about Mother.

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OK, OK. We probably should be willing to cut the mouth-frothing and cut the parental units a modicum of slack. The World is moving really quickly. Easily-accessed online community is way younger than the kids who make it their virtual loitering spot.

It’s not like even the most attentive parents with the very best childhoods had adult role models to show them how to monitor the situation. And yes, the Internet's bizarre cross between anonymity and quick celebrity is a ripe platform for man's inhumanity to man. But so are alcohol and cars.

It's time to embrace the revolutionary concept that teenagers are jerks. And that's fine. It's their birthright. But as with any temptation toward bad behavior, it's a parent's job to teach brats how to responsibly use the Internet, to be humane, to lead by example and most of all not look to cyber scapegoating should they mess up.

How many times does TV’s Mariska Hargitay have to tell you that there are rules for safe online behavior? If you paid attention to those “The More You Know” PSAs, you’d get that.

Plus, many of the old-timey rules remain applicable. We’re not talking castor oil or belt whuppin’. Get all up in their grill, as the kids say. Put the computer in the living room. Know their friends. Talk about problematic issues, such as the Internet, The Drugs, violent video games and Paris Hilton.

Also, if you don’t want children to embrace a society that believes we’re not truly alive unless the nation’s watching, don’t go on the TV the second your kid's unfortunate behavior makes the news.

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