Justin promised Emily that nobody else would ever see the photos, and it seems he meant to keep that promise. But Justin left his phone unattended at a party, and another boy, we'll call him Brett, picked up Justin's phone, scrolled through the photos, and saw the ones Emily had sent. Brett forwarded the photos of Emily from Justin's phone to his phone, and then posted the photos on Instagram, using an account with a fictitious name.
Within their suburban community, the photos went viral. Other girls began calling her "Emily the slut." Boys came up to Emily and asked her to put on a show for them. She was uninvited from a ski weekend with friends when the parents of one of the other girls said they didn't want their daughter to be around Emily's bad influence.
Emily never had any psychological issues until this episode. But she crumbled—refusing to go to school, and cutting herself with a razorblade on her upper thigh where she didn't think her parents would see. She began talking about suicide.
Who is to blame in this situation? Not Emily, in my judgment. Not Justin. Not even Brett. They're just kids.
I blame their parents. The parents provided their kids with cellphones capable of taking, sending and receiving photographs, but they provided no oversight.
Let's start with Judgy Mom Who Won't Let Her Precious Angel Associate With Sluts: Fuck you. Go back to human school. What on EARTH. On the basis of some crazy shit you heard, probably from your bitchy kid, you're further shaming a young woman for something that had nothing to do with her on the basis that sexual behavior is contagious and that contagion is what, airborne, or something? Touch Emily on the ski slopes and you'll die of sluttiness? I don't think there's anybody in this story I hate more than this person.
If your child is so fragile and impressionable that being around a slut is going to make her one, get ready for a prom night baby, Grandma.
I don't blame the parents in this story for giving their kids cell phones. I blame them for not raising human beings instead of little shitheads. You can talk all you want about out-of-control hormones and how cell phones have made all this behavior more convenient, but you cannot credibly talk about how stealing someone else's property is some new thing we've just decided is wrong, and that's what this Brett kid did.
If you buy a smartphone for your child, and your child is victimized by messages received on that phone, or uses the phone to bully another child, the person most responsible for that behavior is you, the parent.
I'm not saying it's easy: There is no analogue in our own upbringing.
Actually, there is. If the photos were prints from the mall kiosk and this douchebag mimeographed them and pasted them around the school, the theft would be the same. The invasion of privacy would be the same. The cruelty and the disregard for the girl's essential humanity would be the same.
Yes, you can monitor your child's phone and Internet activity, and I think that's actually a good idea no matter how well-behaved your child is.
But a better one would be raising kind people who even in the presence of a technological wonder that made torturing their peers so so easy, would decline to do so on the basis of simple decency. The tech can change in an instant. Respect for other people won't.