Racist tweets: Should teens pay the price?

After President Obama was re-elected, the young racists came out in force.

After President Obama was re-elected, the young racists came out in force, said Tracie Egan Morrissey in Jezebel.com. On Facebook and Twitter, there was an eruption of racially loaded “hate speech” from high school and college students who proudly posted their names, faces, and even school affiliations. “No nigger should lead this country!!!” tweeted a football player from Xaverian High School in Brooklyn. A student at University Christian School in Jacksonville, Fla., wrote, “Did you hear the bad news? The monkey is staying for another 4 years.” These dumb posts will probably haunt these kids for the rest of their lives, said Kashmir Hill in Forbes.com. That’s because Jezebel.com decided to publish dozens of names and photos alongside the racist tweets and posts. These words will now be preserved indefinitely in cyberspace, and will show up if college admissions officers or potential employers do a Google search on their names. “This is the world we live in, kids. Stupid, offhand remarks at 16 may mean you don’t get a job at 26.”

Young people say stupid things “all the time,” said Katy Waldman in Slate.com. They act impulsively, try on roles, and test boundaries—mostly to impress their friends. For a “self-righteous” website to shame these stupid kids publicly and damage their futures is “petty and vindictive.” I doubt that this kind of public shaming will make the students reconsider their views, said Emily Bazelon, alsoin Slate.com. If you’re attacked and punished for saying something that you thought only a few friends would hear, “wouldn’t you feel anger more than remorse?” Most teenagers have no real idea how exposed they are on social-media sites, and companies like Facebook and Tumblr, which profit from constant sharing, have made “a cold calculation not to remind them.”

Teenagers understand very well how the Internet works, said Matt Buchanan in BuzzFeed.com. Real names and faces have always been the currency of social media. And since more and more of our lives are lived online, it is no longer some separate space where you get to adopt a persona without responsibility; the accepted “rules and sensibilities” of society now govern our conduct there as well. Using racist or sexist insults, or making threats, is very likely to bring negative consequences. “If you don’t know that already, you should now.”

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