Lori Getz: Last Friday afternoon, 11-year-old Jessica Leonhardt of Florida (who goes by "Jessi Slaughter" and "Kerligirl13" on YouTube) was taken into police protective custody after her online celebrity became her downfall.
It all began when she posted a video wherein she said she was fed up with "haters" who continued to attack her online. She referred to them as "bitches" and said they were jealous of how pretty and popular she is. She even made reference to "popping a Glock" and "making a brain slushie" out of anyone who continued to harass her online.
At the time she made the video, Jessica said the online bullying didn't faze her. But after that vlog went viral on StickyDrama (thanks to a group of trolls who had specifically targeted the self-proclaimed Internet celebrity), things got much worse. There were crank calls, prank pizza orders, hacked accounts and even death threats, according to Jessica's mother, Dianne (who gave an exclusive interview to momlogic). Eventually, Jessica's family became distraught, and Jessica and her father went online to fight back (with Jessica crying and her daddy screaming). This video became known as "You Dun Goof'd" and "The Consequences Will Never Be the Same," and was mocked all over the Net.
In her momlogic interview, Dianne admitted to initially being unaware of the videos, and even said that she still has not seen them. She wants to believe her daughter and feels that her daughter is the victim of a horrible online campaign to destroy her. But never does Dianne talk about her role as a parent, or Jessica's role in provoking the situation.
While I am definitely NOT condoning the trolls' behavior, I feel that no 11-year-old (or any tween or teen) should be going online and making videos full of profanity and death wishes. (At one point, Jessica says she hopes that all haters will get AIDS and die.) When are we going to start talking about the real problem here? Why in the world does Jessi Slaughter (the online celebrity) even exist? She may be a very nice girl in the real world, but online she is a horrid young person who is full of herself (not an image I would want my own daughter to portray for the masses).
It's hard, I know, to parent in a realm we were not parented in. We aren't sure what questions we should be asking, or what rules we should be setting. I can't control what other people do, but I can pay attention to what is going on in my own home. Jessica's mom references the fact that all of Jessica's friends have webcams, too, so she didn't think it was a big deal ... but what are they doing on the webcams is the real question. No, you can't be with them 24/7, but has there ever been a question about what Jessica does online when her parents are not at home or are in the other room? Anyone checked the Web history lately?
We don't let our children walk out the front door without asking them where they're going, who they're going with, what time they will be home and even what they're wearing. I call it "My Father's Famous Four Questions." (I never went anywhere until he had the answer to those questions.) We need to be translating those same parenting skills to the cyberworld.
In the case of Jessica Leonhardt, the final question might be the most important: What is Jessi wearing? How is she presenting herself to the world online? Jessi attracted a kind of negative online attention that drew real-world consequences.
Life lesson here: Don't let an 11-YEAR-OLD have free rein over the home computer and a webcam. Make sure the family computer is in a public place, and monitor what your kids are doing online. In this Internet age, it's up to parents to protect kids from themselves.