Moral panics over new social developments and technologies date back to the time that people grumbled over how reading and writing stunted memory and how imported Minoan artwork was turning good Egyptian youths into deviants. In an era where old media is barely clinging to life, it’s not surprising to see a few media-driven moral panics about the Internet and social media. Meanwhile, terrified parents posted about the supposed game in social teenager scare, warning each other to be vigilant lest their children suddenly disappear. One French group opposed to dangerous games for children advised parents to warn their children that it would be better to fail the game than risk something tragic happening.
However, it soon emerged that the game was most probably imaginary, made up as an excuse by the girl to cover her disappearance with a boyfriend for three days. While some pointed to the fact that secrecy was supposedly part of the game, authorities could not find any evidence of the game actually taking place. Most posts and tweets about the game merely linked to news reports. When police responded to media questions about the game in Vancouver, a newspaper article was written as if there had been an official police warning. The game’s popularity shows that parents need to stay up to the minute on their kids’ computer habits. In early 2015, Miss Israel, Doron Matalon, posted a selfie to Instagram featuring her, Miss Japan, Miss Slovenia, and Miss Lebanon, Saly Greige.
The Lebanese media and the Internet immediately erupted in fury as technically Israel and Lebanon were in a state of war. Lebanese television station Al Jadeed noted that one of Greige’s hobbies is reading, so she should have known enough about the political situation to avoid being in such a position. With some calling for her to be stripped of her title, Miss Lebanon took to Facebook to defend herself, saying that she was preparing to take a picture with Miss Japan and Miss Slovenia when she was photobombed by Miss Israel. Greige wrote in English on her Facebook page. It doesn’t surprise me, but it still makes me sad.
Too bad you cannot put the hostility out of the game, only for three weeks of an experience of a lifetime that we can meet girls from around the world and also from the neighboring country. Some Lebanese wondered why the Miss Universe contestant was getting so much heat when Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil had been so recently photographed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a rally against terrorism in Paris. Even in those days, there were media scares about frightening, new technology. While that is true enough today, it wasn’t the case in 1995. 5 percent of the images in Usenet groups were sexually explicit and that they could be accessed by any man, woman, or child with an Internet connection. He had actually compiled most of his research from private adult bulletin board services, most of which were not accessible through the Internet and sold pornography to adults with credit cards. The claim about images on Usenet was also a misinterpretation because Rimm had only said that 83.
5 percent of images on specifically pornographic Usenet groups were sexually explicit. Internet activists quickly tore apart the data and methodology, with one comparing the article’s methods with surveying adult bookstores at Times Square and applying the findings to merchandise at Barnes and Noble. Time backpedaled, and the study was quickly repudiated, perhaps one of the first victories of the Internet over old media. Back when people still used Myspace, it was considered a dangerous haven for online predators to exploit young people who had placed their personal information online for all to see.
It’s a world where the kids next door can play any role they want. The panic led to the raising of a bit of dodgy legislation to force schools and libraries to restrict minors from accessing commercial social networking websites and chat rooms, a category so broad that it could theoretically apply to almost any website. The effect of the legislation was so costly that it would disproportionately impact poorer school districts. However, Myspace actually made a solid effort to root out sexual predators on their site. Between 2007 and 2009, Myspace identified and blocked 90,000 registered sex offenders from using the site. In 2009, a task force led by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University released a 278-page report which concluded that the danger to children from sexual predators on social media networks was minimal. This shows that social networks are not these horribly bad neighborhoods on the Internet.
Social networks are very much like real-world communities that are comprised mostly of good people who are there for the right reasons. But the idea that social media is causing suicide is not entirely backed up by statistics. The suicide trend for school-age children stayed relatively constant from 1993 to 2012, with suicides declining slightly from 1. A report by the American Journal of Public Health paints a more nuanced picture. Social media can facilitate suicide in some cases. Pro-suicide websites and chat rooms distribute information about suicide preparation and methods. Victims of cyberbullying and online harassment are twice as likely to attempt suicide as those who are not victims.