1. Kids Running Amuck
Most people know that when it comes to Twitter my primary objectives are to express myself, promote the things I like, and gain as many followers as I possibly can. In the pursuit of obtaining these goals, I use a website that allows me to follow many people at once with the click of a few buttons. The expectation from doing so is that most of the people I have followed will follow back. The problem with this system is that, in the pursuit of gaining many followers in a short amount of time I often initially do not filter who I follow. This means I could be following a next door neighbor, some random comedian in China or worst case scenario, a child (aged 13-17). This is because if teenagers (aged 13 – 17) are allowed to have a Twitter account, my blind follower system increases the chance of me following them. I do not wish to follow anyone under the age of eighteen because in my opinion someone seventeen or younger doesn’t have anything of substance to tweet (speak) about. Not only are their experiences insignificant to someone twenty-one or older, they are usually speaking from a mind of immaturity. I am an adult. At times I will use my freedom of speech to speak on adult subject matter and engage in online conversations with other adults. In my leisure I often interact with my followers to keep my user experience entertaining and to develop a better understanding of the people I follow and those who follow me. I don’t want to interact with a Twitter follower with the perception they are eighteen or older only to discover they aren’t. This type of interaction can be detrimental to both adults and the teenagers they follow and interact with and I will explain why in the succeeding paragraphs.
2. Adolescent Ignorance
Because I follow a lot of random people I regularly see a lot of random tweets. I recently stumbled upon a tweet about a girl not going to class very often. This made me a little concerned. I know what you’re thinking, “You don’t even know her. Why be concerned?” My answer to that is, I am seeing a lot of tweets like this. They are popping up on my timeline more frequently now than ever before. This disturbs me because I know the value of education. Whether a person pays for it or not, there is value in knowledge. And the knowledge a person attains in any setting or situation can always be used later in life, no matter how young or old the person is. So when I see tweets about not going to class or not typing papers that should be typed, I feel bad for the person taking their education for granted. I know firsthand what it’s like and I know the regret that comes from hindsight once you realize you’ve either wasted time or money when you could have been doing something beneficial like studying or learning.
So, I tweeted to who I thought was either a senior in high school (18) or a girl in college (18+), only to discover after I expressed to her that she’d end up regretting not doing her schoolwork, she was FOURTEEN!!!! Until she told me that, I had no idea of how young she was. She also called me old during our twittersation, which I thought was pretty comical considering most of the people I work and come in contact with say I look pretty young. But, that’s another story for another day. Anyway, upon discovering she was significantly younger than me, I became upset. And I know some of you reading this are wondering, “Who are you to tell people how to live their lives?” Who am I? A person who cares about people. I try to help people when I can and I saw it as an opportunity to teach her something. So there I was, upset because I immediately thought about the show To Catch A Predator and I said to myself, “well damn, if they allow people as young as fourteen – which she told me they allow people as young as thirteen on Twitter – think of all the predators out there watching these young people just waiting to strike.” My anger changed into concern as I thought of all the reasons why allowing such young people to have access to such a powerful social tool as Twitter can be harmful and these are the other reasons.
3. Underaged Indecency
First, In a world where hormones run rampant in most of our genetically modified fast foods, youths bodies – specifically females – begin to mature faster now than thirty, twenty or even ten years ago. So a lot more young women have adult bodies. Second, In a world where sex is highly publicized and being sexy is glamorized in the media, todays young women are highly influenced by these sexualized images and notions. This leads to pre-teen and teenaged females dressing more provocatively and in some cases, indecent for their age. Lastly, the accountability politics, morals, and ethics of today’s youth have highly depreciated over the years. So the inhibitions of the past are steadily weakening as we push further into the digital future. As a result, today’s youth cares less about how their image is portrayed or used in the webiverse and is more inclined to digitally document their indecency. All of this leads to underaged indecency. In a twitterverse filled with half-naked fourteen year-olds, eyes lurking for their discovery, and a police-less space, the social media realm is unwittingly enabling the possibility of it becoming a perverse space for pedophilia and child pornography.
What all of this means is that we live in a world where a lot of men are sex-hungry opportunists constantly on the hunt for new conquests and gratification in the form of a woman. (This is what I will tell my future daughters, nieces, and younger female cousins.) So when they see a sixteen year old with the figure of a twenty-five year old posing on Twitter in almost nothing, they are going to engage that “girl” knowingly of her true age (in some cases) or unknowingly of her true age (in many cases) and attempt to fulfill their hunger. If she – the teenaged girl lusting for the attention of this older man, who under normal circumstances would be giving it to an older woman – decides to respond to his advances on Twitter, and they meet up and take it further, he would unwittingly be engaging in sexual misconduct, or what is referred to in most states as RAPE. This is very problematic for me because as I said before it can be harmful for the girl (teenager) or the guy (adult) and in many cases both. Of course, this notion of twitter being a breeding ground for pedophiles or a safe haven for indecency is a look at the extreme end of the spectrum. I am simply trying to shed light on a much larger topic: Twitter needs to be more exclusive.
3. A Bullying Magnet
Switching gears from one extreme to the next I would like to shine the spotlight on a situation that has occurred since the beginning of time, but has increased and been made more available due to social media and that is BULLYING. Yes, I am sure we have all been made fun of at some point in our life. But, Twitter has the potential to amplify the impact of a negative comment or picture. We all know that in most cases kids tend to be the biggest bullies because they have not yet matured enough to know the ignorance of bullying and the long-term repercussions it causes. Of course, bullying is not limited to just children under the age of eighteen. I, for example was picked on by a couple of women a few months back after tweeting my personal opinion on the evolving appearance of Pam Grier over the years. Yes, as her age has gone up, so has her weight. Most of us know this. But, most people won’t acknowledge it via social media. I did, and was basically harassed about it for about three hours. A couple of random women who I wasn’t even following came out of nowhere and began to tweet negative things about me and bash me. Did it hurt me? No. It was more of an annoyance to keep receiving push notifications from Twitter that read something like, “@LadyXYZ is saying “fill in the blank” about you.” But, I am an adult. If I were a weaker-minded person or a child and had to feel the wrath of someone like those women for speaking my mind, it could have possibly damaged my self-esteem and made me fearful to even use Twitter. And on the flip side, if I were a fourteen year old bully trying to embarrass a person I didn’t like, with enough followers I could really damage that person’s credibility and totally ruin their experience, not just on Twitter, but at their school or their neighborhood. When it comes to e-bullying there really is no boundary or extent as to how far it can go. So, with all of this said I offer up a couple of suggestions that could possibly help reduce these kinds of negative happenings and detrimental occurrences.
4. A Call for Action
All of this could easily be avoided if Twitter did one of two very simple things. Option 1. Twitter can ban users under the age of 18. And I know some of you are saying, “Well, kids will find a way around it and create accounts using fake birth dates.” And you are exactly right. I am certain all of us at one point in our lives wanted to go on a website we knew we didn’t belong and what happened? The curiosity got the best of us and we found a way to gain access to the “age-restricted” site anyway. Well, that’s why I offer a second, more practical option. Option 2. Make it so that Twitter is set up for ages thirteen and older as it is now, but if the person is under eighteen, twitter automatically shows their age or birth year in their twitter bio/profile. That would limit the possibility of men or women saying they didn’t know the child wasn’t eighteen because the child’s age would be permanently stamped in their bio/profile like the blue verified check mark. And for those kids who created accounts using fake birth dates they would be held accountable as well if something improper were to occur between them and an older person. The idea is that if they were cognizant enough to lie about their birth day, they knowingly invited the opportunity for older people to approach and interact with them on the website. And just as a precaution I have devised a 3rd Option that I feel should be instated regardless of if the first two ever happen or not. Option 3. Parents need to alert their children of the dangers of social media and the responsibility that comes with owning a social network account. Real life education begins at home. If their parents don’t teach them and the school doesn’t teach them real world applications, where will they learn? The answer is their friends. And their friends are generally just as ignorant on the matter as they are. So parents PLEASE teach your children social network etiquette and the Do’s and Don’ts of social media. And remember the digital world is ever evolving. There are new dangers arising everyday, but with knowledge we can know how to avoid them. Safe browsing, Safe chatting and Safe Sharing everyone.
Have any mature thoughts or opinions on this essay? Please share with me by commenting below. I invite all dialogue and discussion and thanks for reading.