Having just successfully reassured another group of parents that the internet won't eat their young, listening to CNN's clueless American Morning anchor attempt to pin this one on MySpace and YouTube really irritated me. She basically asked the victim's mother if MySpace would now be persona non grata at home, and mom talks about how horrible it is because parents can't access their teens' personal accounts and know everything going on (online) -- as if there was a time when parents knew everything about teens' lives before the internet.
The incident itself was extreme bullying. What may have surprised people is that it was a bunch of cheerleaders acting like a girl gang, except they weren't jumping their victim in, they wanted to send a message to her and other girls like her that "trash talking" has consequences (unlike beating the crap out of someone). There has been a steady increase in girl-on-girl violence over the past several years that has nothing to do with the internet. The idea of filming and posting the beating is not new -- this has been happening here and in Europe for awhile (these types of videos being posted to YouTube). Before YouTube, teens made sure word of these types of fights or beatdowns got around the old fashioned way, i.e. word of mouth. Now they can literally broadcast it "for their friends" and others at school. Most teens who post these videos only intend for them to be seen by their peers. This video never made it to YouTube, instead it went right to television for the whole world to see. The idea of posting it to YouTube didn't inspire the beating -- it's just the new way of making sure the other kids at school know it happened.
The internet didn't make those cheerleaders beat up that girl. If the internet didn't exist, and she "trash talked" them at school, I guarantee you they would have done it anyway. If anything, the internet may have given the victim a false sense of security that she could say stuff ("trash talk") she probably would not have had the courage to say in real life to an "invisible audience" on MySpace without realizing that it would get out. Teens still don't understand that if they don't want someone to find out about what they posted about them online, they shouldn't post it -- period. If parents could focus on driving this message home instead of on how they can spy on their kids 24/7, we might begin to see a little less drama that can lead to this type of vicious bullying.