September 11, 2013

Bill Nemitz: Immature brains behind microwave cat video

By Bill Nemitz bnemitz@pressherald.com
Columnist

(Continued from page 1)

"There's a monkey-see, monkey-do type of thing even if they get negative attention," said Knorr. Teenagers see what goes viral "and they imitate it because it's just so easy to do."

(Think she's kidding? Go to Google, type in "cat microwave video" and hit the "video" search link. I stopped scrolling after Page 4.)

Paradoxically, Knorr said, many kids use the Internet to make a splash (or a splat) within their own finite universe without stopping to consider that their audience goes way beyond their own high school's cool crowd.

"It's really difficult for them to understand the concept of this vast, invisible audience that's out there on the Internet," said Knorr. "It just doesn't occur to them that this is illegal and that they might get into trouble."

Rather, she said, their reaction is likely to be, "Oh! There's somebody out there who doesn't think what I did is the greatest thing in the world?"

Finally, Knorr points to that confounding data processing device that has nothing to do with the Internet: the adolescent brain.

"It's really, really hard for kids to think through the consequences of their actions. Their brain is not that fully formed," said Knorr. "That's why it's so important for parents to be aware of the technologies that kids are using, especially if they're using smartphones and apps that allow them to instantaneously upload something to the Internet."

Meaning you have a choice, parents of kids who probably know a lot more about that iPhone than you do.

You can join the chorus that's now condemning two local girls whose bad Internet judgment may cost them more than they ever imagined.

Or you can do something far more constructive and ask your own teenager (or pre-teen, for that matter), "Tell us, dear, what did you do in cyberspace today?"

"Know what they're using," said Knorr. "And ask how they use it, because a lot of times, obviously, kids are way more technologically savvy than their parents are."

Then, last but by no means least, look beyond the laptop or mobile device to the child attached to the keyboard.

"Kids don't just all of a sudden go bad because they can do something on YouTube," noted Knorr. "Their technical savvy outpaces their judgment, but it's not the tools that made them do that."

She's right. Long before that helpless kitten was uploaded for all the world to see, someone had to decide that a cat in the microwave was actually funny.

Twitter Vine, meet moral disconnect.

 

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:

bnemitz@pressherald.com

 

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