Savvy web users have known the addictive popularity of reaction videos for quite some time, not always in the name of constructive causes, but in the wake of the Amanda Todd tragedy, the Fine Brothers decided to put this knowledge to good use by filming a reaction video of their own. Already the recipients of an Emmy for their popular “Kids React To” YouTube series, in which they film youth and their reactions to current events like KONY 2012 or the death of Osama Bin Laden, Benny and Rafi Fine decided to extend their format and make a longer and more comprehensive version of kids reacting to the events surrounding Amanda Todd.
They showed Amanda’s cry-for-help video and then allowed the kids to react in real time as it unfolded, even going so far as to inform some of them that Amanda took her own life shortly after making the video. The reactions are stunning and often moving. Far from being the jaded, entitled stereotypes their generation is often portrayed as, these kids come across as… well, as people: thoughtful and compassionate, and, it must be said, wounded and hopeless. The degree to which almost every single teenager in this video clearly empathizes with Amanda’s plight should be a warning for all of us: kids are being hurt on an ongoing and often regular basis by the online harassment behaviours of both their peers and predatory adults.
I urge you to both watch the video and also read Mashable’s follow up interview with the Fine Brothers. In it, they urge social media outlets to do a lot more to prevent trolls from having free rein to harass and hurt others, often driving their victims to depression, anxiety, self harm and even suicide. To that end, they believe suspending user accounts might be a good start. As one of the kids in the video says, parents still need to develop more awareness of the issues, using the astute metaphor of an iceberg to describe the discrepancy between what most adults can see online and the dark hidden parts (such as 4Chan) roiling beneath the surface, while acknowledging both the hilarious and the freakish.
At the same time, a local group named the Red Hood Project was launched by musician and author Raffi Cavoukian and community advocate and former lawyer Sandy Garossino, also in response to Amanda Todd, and also with the message of urging social media to be more accountable and address the dangers kids face online. From their Facebook page:
“Security gaps in major social media sites, and the apps that integrate with them have exposed children and young teens to risk from predators and abusers online. While education of parents and users is a laudable objective, it is no substitute for systemic security. Kids are not prey, and they are entitled to safety in the social media environment. The time has come for industry to institute measures to secure that safety.”