Griffiths / When unthinking kids mess up…

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.” – Reinhold Niebuhr’s “Serenity Prayer”

WE live in an age of wonders that we increasingly appear to be unfit for.

John Griffiths.

John Griffiths.

Last week there was a great deal of concern as young men around the world clubbed together online to “hunt” risque photographs of young women in their own communities.

According to some reports, a number of Canberra schools may have been caught up in this behaviour.

Most people were appalled, although not necessarily for the same reasons. According to Queensland Police the initial reports may have been overblown and the pictures being “collected” had been posted to social media by their subjects.

While there was certainly a betrayal of trust by their online “friends”, it would at least be less nasty than boyfriends sharing intimate moments.

(This is hard for non-police to verify as anything more distasteful would be criminal to look at. Most of us will have to take their word for it.)

While not good it could have been worse as the potential for covert photography is growing at a phenomenal rate since the days of the peephole (which in itself is not a glorious chapter in human history).

Technology catalogues offer all manner of tools with very dubious legitimate uses, and whole worlds of awful ones.

But even if factories in China weren’t turning out gadgets for spying on each other cheap and small components are just a quick online shopping expedition away.

It does not take enormous skill anymore to lash together a small covert remotely operated camera, and even one that can roll around or fly.

For a long time now the driving question of technology has moved on from “what can we do?” (if so motivated, we can put people on the moon) to “what should we do?”.

In politics, sport and reality TV we see a lot of people these days doing nasty things for morally repugnant reasons.

Why should we expect better behaviour from clued-up kids? They’re hyper-empowered with little sense of consequence.

In the face of this bleak picture there is a heartening view one can take. Most people do in fact do the right thing by each other.

The question remains what do we do with young people who stray?

If their actions are irresponsible and unthinking, showing a lack of empathy, and cause enormous damage, do we imprison them? Forever label them as sex offenders? Expel them from schools and deny them an education?

Because unthinking, unempathetic irresponsibility does seem to be a major part of youth.

I’ll concede there are some saintly children out there. But most are capable of being beastly and yet also capable of growing into decent human beings if given the chance.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers to these questions. But as a society it would appear we’re going to need to think about them a lot more.

Because when some kids mess up in future it’s going to be increasingly public, spectacular and harmful to others.

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