Image of Jessi Slaughter from her YouTube videoWho knows what 11-year-old Jessi Slaughter was thinking when she uploaded a potty-mouthed video of herself ranting on YouTube last Thursday. Maybe she just really needed to tell her "haters" to back off, as she claims in the video. Maybe being raised in the age of reality television got her to thinking that becoming famous for acting like a jerk was a good thing. Maybe she was just (duh) being an 11-year-old girl. Whatever the reason, the video shows her either making violent threats or playing with her bangs, basically coming across as a disturbing hybrid of the baby dancing to Beyonce and Mel Gibson.
If the video itself was not pretty, then the aftermath was downright brutal. As Gawker recaps:
"The Internet started picking on Jessi Slaughter relentlessly. But it was more than just mocking: People started circulating Jessi's real name, phone number, address and links to all her social networking accounts. Someone prank called her. According to Encyclopedia Dramatica, pranksters spammed her Facebook and MySpace accounts, had pizzas delivered to her house and were considering sending call girls off Craigslist to the address. (Encyclopedia Dramatica currently has a three part section on "How to troll" Jessi: 1) "There are pics of her holding her boobs" 2) "Tell her to kill herself" 3) "Tell her dad that we are going to beat her up.") Slaughter's information and videos also shot through tumblr, aided by the blogging platform's reblogging system."
Yes, that's right, an 11-year-old get grossly mouthy (in the video she tells her haters, "If you can't stop hating, you know what? I'll pop a glock in your mouth and make a brain slushy") and then a bunch of internet trolls decided to…what exactly? Get even? Put her in her place? Scare her into silence?
The story gets infinitely worse at this point, because for ill thought out reasons, Jessi decided to post another video of herself responding to her haters, this time crying her eyes out. But what's remarkable about this video is the presence of her father, who rages in incoherently in the background, claiming that he has "backtraced" all the posts against his daughter and that the "cyber police and the state police" have been called in. He is all anger and bluster and, let's face it, ineffectiveness. Anyone with a digital clue knows that this is a parent in the worst position: furiously defending what he loves the most with laughable, empty threats.
While the circumstances in the Slaughter family are extreme, they also hint at the kind of trouble a lot of families are going through right now as they try to get a handle on how their kids are using technology. Keeping your kids safe from themselves becomes an entirely different job when they don't need to leave their bedrooms to ruin their reputations and put your household in harms way.
Clearly the Slaughter's haven't been dealing with any part of their daughter's digital life, given the fact that her posting got as far as it did, and that their response was so wrongheaded. As one commenter for Atlantic Monthly puts it: "The real shame is that after all of this happened, her parents apparently couldn't summon up the wisdom to help their daughter deal with the aftermath of her actions. Instead, they've apparently taught her that the correct reaction is to further engage and antagonize people."
So what is the correct reaction to finding out your kid is being harassed by faceless haters through a medium you've got no clue about? Shine reached out to YouTube spokeswoman Mandy Albanese to find out what recourse, if any, Jessi Slaughter and her family has in this instance, and how parents can avoid a situation like this.
Clearly Jessi Slaughter violated the terms of YouTube when she lied about her age to join [YouTube requires users to be 13 years of age], but since lying in this case is as easy as pressing a button, it doesn't seem like a problem that is just going to go away. What are you guys doing to deal with it?
When we become aware that someone is under age13, we delete that account. Beyond that, with over 2 billion videos posted every day, and 24 hours worth of video uploaded every minute, we just can't go look for all the 10-year-olds.
Jessi has a few options concerning subsequent postings of her videos, now that they have been taken down. If they are reposted in an effort just to harass her, the video will come down. If someone else posts a copy of the video and she is in it, she can file a privacy complaint, or in some cases, a copyright complaint.
Does Youtube think it bears any responsibility for this kind of incident?
The best that we can do is to respond reactively. When something like this happens, the video is flagged. We've created a team of people that review flagged videos every hour of the day, all over the world. We do our best to proactively help folks. But ultimately, the control is the hands of the user. When people sign up for an account, it's their responsibility to jury the terms of service.
As the experts on the web when it comes to video and community, what do you think parents can do to keep things like this from happening in their families?
One of the things that I encounter chatting with parents and teens about the Internet is that parents are reticent to talk about it. They say they don't understand technology. My response is, they have a frontal lobe. They have good judgment. Parents have a responsibility to talk to their kids about what they are doing online. While younger people think of it as private thing, they need to understand that their actions are publically viewable. Parents need to help them get that.
You are involved in every other aspect of your kids' lives. You ask them how school went, how soccer practice went. Why wouldn't you ask them how they were spending the past two hours on the internet?
Good point. What should a parent do if their kid has posted a video of themselves that starts receiving a lot of negative attention?
In the case of harassment, users should select the radio button on the Safety Center home page "Harassment & Cyberbullying" to learn more and to file a complaint (scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the Help and Safety Tool).