Remember that “social experiment” of the man with the puppy, showing parents how easy it was to lure their children off playgrounds? Well, there’s a new paranoia-inducing viral video in town, and it’s just as fear-inducing and pointless as the first was. This one preys on the paranoia of parents of teens – and the way the video “teaches a lesson” is utterly disturbing.
Coby Persin is a self-described “prankster” with a YouTube channel that has over a million subscribers. In this video, he veers from his usual pranks to teach teenagers a lesson about the dangers of social media. He makes fake Facebook accounts to (along with the parents of the unsuspecting girls) lure teenagers into dangerous situations.
Each “experiment” goes the same way: Persin explains that he will be meeting the young girl, the parents insist their daughter would never do anything as dangerous as setting up a rendezvous with someone they’ve never met, and the girl ultimately makes the bad decision of meeting a stranger, only to be met by her screaming parents, too. Here it is:
Yes, it’s disturbing as hell to imagine your teenage daughters meeting with anonymous predators online. Yes, social media can be dangerous, and parents need to be diligent. But what is this enormous scare tactic really doing? I don’t think much for these girls, except absolutely destroying their trust in their parents. Lenore Skenazy (of Free Range Parenting fame) tells Yahoo Parents that the video “reinforces the idea that every child is in constant danger from strangers, and that’s not the case.”
The girls in the video are terrified and traumatized. They believe for a brief moment that they are being attacked. I may be totally in the minority with this view, but this kind of tough-love parenting totally freaks me out. We have to teach our kids to navigate the dangers of social media. But scaring the shit out of them in a sting operation is just all kinds of wrong.
By the way, the video has been viewed over 12 million times in two days.
The puppy video that similarly went viral a few months ago showed unsuspecting parents in parks how quickly their kids would talk to strangers. Yes, it was shocking to see child after child engage strangers and in some cases, even follow them to a car. But the fact of the matter is, the proverbial “boogeyman” that we are all afraid of is very, very rare. The Washington Post analyzed all the ways that children are safer now than they have ever been before, and found “only 0.1 percent of missing persons cases were what we’d think of as a ‘stereotypical kidnapping’ — where a complete stranger tries to abduct somebody and carry them off by force.”
A fraction of a percent of kidnappings are of the “man in a park with a puppy” variety. Yet the video was viewed over 9 million times. Intermittently throughout the video, the message “One share can save a life” pops up. I doubt any lives were saved, but I’m sure some money was made. Viral videos reap royalties, which is why so many people try to create them.
We’re all scared of the dangers that social media may pose for our teens. But in my opinion (and I may totally stand alone on this) these scare tactics are way over the top – and these girls were seriously violated.