Social media use carries responsibility

Some teenagers don’t seem to understand the limits and responsibilities involved with technology and communications media. They seem to view text and picture messaging by cell phone and use of Internet-connected computers as exceptions to rules governing many other modes of exchanging information.

In some situations, it seems attitudes toward such communications have dulled teens’ moral values.

This past week, two Steubenville, Ohio teens were convicted of raping a girl last August. The crimes were despicable enough on their own. The two Jefferson County boys will pay for their offenses, a judge ruled Sunday.

But what happened during, immediately after and in the months following the assault has been in a separate category of offensiveness – and hazard to the teens involved.

Exchanges via cell phone of pictures of the rape victim, sometimes nude and even as she was being assaulted, occurred several times. A video of a young man discussing the crime in disturbingly crude, unfeeling detail circulated on the Internet. Text messages were sent, describing what happened and sometimes boasting of what was done to the victim.

Then, on Monday, Steubenville police arrested two teen girls for allegedly threatening the rape victim through “social media.”

Would the communications described above have occurred had the vehicles for them been voice phone calls, letters or printed photographs? Probably not.

But something about certain modern technologies has affected the judgment of some people. In some cases it also seems to have dulled their senses of right and wrong.

Some of these phenomena already have been noticed by social and psychology researchers, and are being studied. Various ideas about the problem – and it is a serious one – have been offered.

Moral values must be instilled beginning at an early age by parents, guardians and others able to influence children.

But recognizing the potential ramifications of communications, by whatever method, is a matter of education. Schools everywhere, not just in Steubenville, should put more emphasis on that.

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