Are we raising generation of professional online performers?

What kind of teenagers are we raising?

Are we raising generation of professional online performers?

Last week’s online brawl at Cowichan Secondary wasn’t the “new low” for our community, nor was the alleged gun threat that nearly emptied the school the following day.

It was the spectator sport that emerged in the process. In a scene reminiscent of the TV show Black Mirror, dozens of teenagers stood by with their phones out doing nothing while five cowards kicked a fellow student. Lest we take to fake news to scratch our itching ears, it’s important to realize that this fight was a planned, albeit non-sanctioned, event. The victim was not minding his own business when attacked. He was there to fight. What wasn’t planned was the five to one odds and dozens of amateur teenage journalists with their phones out capturing the entire event while surely dreaming of future follows on their social media — how many views is the video up to now?

What kind of teenagers are we raising?

Faced with an intense pressure to maintain their Snapchat streaks and gain Instagram likes (and the pressure is real), we’re raising professional performers who don’t know how to act offline. What should they have done? Jumped in? Ran to get help? Not showed up to begin with? While there probably isn’t one right answer, surely being a spectator to other people’s pain is always the wrong one.

Perhaps teenagers have always been spectators and social media has simply amplified this dark reality. While that may be true, I think before we cast judgment, we all need to take a hard look in the mirror. As adults, how would we have acted in this situation? Are we, too, poised performers online, yet in real life, where it counts, sufferers of stage fright? The answer is everything.

John Close

Duncan

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