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Commentary: Gossip today spreads faster, cuts deeper

Matt Von Pinnon/ Forum Editor - High school might just be harder today.

Not necessarily on the academics side. That’s still up for debate.

But on the social side, no doubt.

Sure, kids have always been bullied and teased, beat up and rumored to have done this and that.

That’s part of growing up, hardening our innocent selves in preparation for the hard truths of the world in which we live.

But social media has really upped the ante.

No longer is teasing and rumor-mongering confined to word of mouth or bathroom stalls. Kids today can broadcast their bullying far and wide by simply tapping their phones.

And now comes along a more insidious avenue for taking someone down: sites designed entirely to spread rumor or teasing, complete with school logos and total anonymity.

We at The Forum learned about them Monday night. Most local high schools have at least one of these Twitter sites. Some of the schools have several sites under different names.

We are not naming them here because we don’t want to give them more notoriety than they already have.

That said, we thought readers – especially parents and grandparents – should know about them.

We don’t know a lot about the origin of these sites, but we do know they have become popular almost overnight.

Just as with any medium, there is potential to use social media for both good and bad.

It seems some of these Twitter sites started with good intentions: a forum in which to anonymously compliment classmates on their looks or their smarts.

But it didn’t take long for even those sites to devolve into something else. Before long, nastier sites became preferred.

So and so is fat.

So and so smells funny.

So and so is an alcoholic.

And those are the tamest comments.

There are kids accused of serious crimes.

There are kids whose race, religions and ethnic backgrounds are held up for scathing ridicule.

There are survey links where students can anonymously rate their fellow classmates on anything from body parts to how many sex partners they’ve had.

Despite all the time and effort schools spend these days trying to combat bullying, it seems teens, like all those who have come before them, are rebelling against authority, rejecting that instruction.

And the anonymity has given rise to a nastier form of hurtfulness.

Some kids who have been the brunt of such missives say it makes them not want to go to school.

We as parents – as a society – should be concerned about this. It’s the modern scarlet letter.

Schools are not equipped to combat this onslaught. It has to start in the home, one student at a time.

It’s not invasion of privacy to know what your kid is up to in the social media world. It’s not like reading the diary of old. This stuff is being published far beyond the home. Uncomfortable or not, parents have to become acquainted with these new hangouts.

High school might just be harder today.

Parenting certainly is.

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