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Dumb Teens, Racism And The Social Media Talk You Need To Have Today

In Man-day, Parenting by Jen26 Comments

Something happened in our home state of Arizona this week. You may have already seen the picture that went viral of 6 High School Seniors with shirts spelling out a racial slur, but in case you missed it, here it is.

The story behind the picture is that it was taken on Senior picture day at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Arizona. It is a day meant for Seniors to take fun and memorable pictures for the yearbook. There was a larger group that took this picture. Their shirts spell out “Best*You’ve*Ever*Seen*Class*Of*2016.” Cute huh?

Unfortunately these 6 girls have now undermined this larger class picture by snapping and posting their own photo to their personal social media accounts. The rest is now internet history.

As parents of a teen we feel truly sad for these young girls. They made a terrible call here. And because we are a global society, this poor choice is now being amplified to a much larger audience than they could have possibly imagined. They are learning an important lesson in choice and accountability this week. They made a choice to be a part of that picture and now they have to deal with the ramifications for their behavior; ramifications that may be much further reaching than the 5 day suspension they received as punishment from the school. They will have to suffer the fallout from this choice within their families, their community, their peers and now social media at large.

We don’t want to give any further commentary on what these teens did or try to elaborate the reasons for why what they did was wrong. There has been more than enough of that this week. The reason we are bringing this discussion here to JENerally Informed is twofold.

First, we MUST teach our teens how to properly use social media.

If you have a teen with their own social media accounts, you need to use this situation to discuss with them how their choices when posting is important. Because it is. Vitally so. Today an image they may post without even thinking, could launch them unwittingly onto the global stage. Help them understand what it means have that image dissected, discussed, and shared with a much larger audience then they would want to have involved.

This past Christmas our 14 year old just received her first cell phone. She received it because it was useful to US that she have one. For scheduling rides and pick ups to the various extracurricular activities she is a part of like play practice, church youth activities, and 4H. She did not receive it because all of her friends “already had one.” A point which she reminded us of rather frequently and we didn’t care to acknowledge. Most importantly, she was given a cellphone because she has proven herself to be trustworthy. That being said, we follow her on ALL of her social media accounts, and we check them pretty much every day. This is our job to help teach her how to use social media properly. We hope that she will use wisdom with her posts, but we can tell you that over the years we have seen some pretty interesting things posted to Facebook and Instagram from young teens in our acquaintance. We are sure at that point somebody probably sat that teen down and told them what was and wasn’t appropriate to post publicly. The thing is, that, as in this case, the first time they make a mistake may already be too late. That is why it is important to set expectations BEFORE they run into trouble.

If you haven’t sat down and talked about this and other internet dangers with your teenager. Please do it now.

Secondly, this should not be used to castigate entire communities.

Commentary like this is ridiculous.

“None of the girls involved or their parents have spoken to the media about the incident as yet, but for starters, maybe the curriculum at Desert Vista needs to be…adjusted.”

And this was not the only pundit advocating this position.

Let’s be honest, if that same group of girls had happened to have been wearing different letters for the big message, they might have spelled out “FU** YOU” instead.  They did it to be edgy, rebellious, and undeniably stupid. To assume that everyone around these girls, including families and schoolmates, are part of some kind of vast racist conspiracy is ludicrous on its face. There is a segment of society that would use this, and other incidents in an attempt to paint a “bigger picture” and lump in a large percentage of the population along with whatever sins these offenders may be guilty of. 

Taking the worst part of any group, culture, or gathering and painting it as the norm is dishonest and does real damage to society. It is especially alarming to see members of the media do it in order to create conflict and obtain ratings.  Trying to boost one night’s viewership on a television news segment can do untold damage to real lives, and escalate tensions.  Imagine what these young girls are experiencing right now.

When we have deficiencies in society, and Heaven knows they exist, we should deal with them head on. There is certainly enough problems to keep us busy without naming an entire school, all of it’s students and a state at large as racists because of the unfortunate actions of 6 young girls.

Stay Happy! Stay Informed!

Jen & Jen’s Guy


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  1. Back in the day before the internet, something like this never would have gone viral. Don’t get me wrong though as it wouldn’t have been right then or now, but just saying nowadays with the internet stuff like this has a way of getting seen by the masses and truly biting those who do it straight in the butt. That said I agree with your lessons and we do need to teach our kids to be mindful of all they do and say, especially on social media, as well now.
    Janine Huldie recently posted…Crayons and The Pink Girl Lives OnMy Profile

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      True, true. I did some dumb things when I was a teenager, not quite like this, but dumb enough and I could not imagine having that spread out to the masses on the internet. All of that scares the life out of me for my children and so I think I will be their personal social media stalker, trainer and even editor as needed to hopefully keep them smart and safe. It’s a brave new world for sure.
      Jen recently posted…Dumb Teens, Racism & The Social Media Talk You Need To Have TodayMy Profile

  2. I love your take with what you did with your daughter. I always figure that I will get Scarlet a cell phone when it’s convenient to us, and not her.
    I actually did not read about this. I think I saw a glimpse of a photo but I have been mostly off of social media for the past week or so. It’s definitely a different world we live in, and I love how your post is not speculating on why they did what they did, but talking about the widespread effects of our actions on social media.
    Tamara recently posted…To Kick Off This Embarrassing Week..My Profile

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      Good for you for staying off social media for a bit. As a teenager I remember the big old brick phones people had and then it was dial up internet. I can still hear that sound in my nightmares. This whole constant connectivity deal kind of messes with the brain. I wonder what that means for this next generation that has known nothing but what it is like now?
      Jen recently posted…Dumb Teens, Racism & The Social Media Talk You Need To Have TodayMy Profile

  3. I saw this yesterday. I just shook my head. I also see a lot of hate coming from some blacks, but the media isn’t quick to put that out there. There is an unequal mess going on out there, but these girls are marked for life. I hope someone doesn’t do them any physical harm.

    The other thing I’ve noticed is if you’re white then you are racist in many circles. It’s that white privilege thing. What white privilege? Don’t even get me started on that. I was so poor for so many years I couldn’t rub two nickels together. In many ways the media is stirring this big pot of mess and loving the fallout.

    Excellent post.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺
    Comedy Plus recently posted…Awww MondaysMy Profile

    1. Author

      I think there is hate coming from everywhere. My mother was born in Mexico and my children and I are Hispanic, but even in some circles we are too white to be real Hispanics. It makes me sad. I have always told my children to judge others on the content of their character and not a person by their skin color or how they look. I wish everyone would do that and that this could be a real possibility for our world someday, but right now it’s not looking too promising.
      Jen recently posted…Dumb Teens, Racism & The Social Media Talk You Need To Have TodayMy Profile

  4. The way you are teaching your daughter about social media by watching over her is truly the best in my opinion. When my daughter was a teen and on social media, she called me a creeper mom because I watched her every move :). Now she appreciates how I watched over her and taught her what is not acceptable to post, sometimes even forcing her to remove comments/statuses I didn’t approve of. Unfortunately, they do not inherently know these things. It’s our job as parents to help them navigate the online world. Great lesson here, my friend!
    Candace recently posted…Choosing God Over FoodMy Profile

  5. I did not hear about this story. It’s unfortunate that teens decide to do these things to be funny or outrageous or whatever reason. I do agree that it shouldn’t be taken that they or their families and especially not the school at large is racist. This type of photo shouldn’t be JUST about racism. Yes, if that’s the reason, deal with it. And feel free to talk about that, but you also need to talk about using social media correctly, being kind to others, peer pressure, etc.

    ShootingStarsMag recently posted…Hallowed Ground by Rebecca Yarros Blog TourMy Profile

  6. Author

    Isn’t it sad all around? Sad for our society and sad for these dumb kids to make such a bad choice. I agree I wish that the larger take away was talking about the social media angle. That can be so potentially harmful to young people if they are unchecked and self taught how to navigate the online world. And yes you are absolutely right, teach kindness, kindness and more kindness!
    Jen recently posted…Dumb Teens, Racism & The Social Media Talk You Need To Have TodayMy Profile

  7. When I did stupid things as a teenager, maybe 5 of my best friends and possibly a few other people knew about them. It’s too bad when you have the entire world knowing about them because of social media. That’s tough to live down.

    I try to be mindful of not condemning people (especially when I don’t know all the details because I’m not personally involved) on social media. A while back there was a FB post that went viral from a first-time mom of a 2-week-old ranting about how unkempt moms with messy houses must just be lazy because it really isn’t all that hard. People were very quick to share this and practically start hunting the woman with pitchforks, but I just thought, “We should all just ignore it and let her quietly eat her words when she realizes after a few more weeks or months that it IS really hard. No need to leave a permanent record of her embarrassment all over the Internet.”
    Jenny @ Unremarkable Files recently posted…Coupons: You’re Using Them WrongMy Profile

  8. I remember being in college and saying that my days of doing something stupid were coming to an end. It used to be that everyone was expected to do dumb things. It’s just part of growing up. But it was all left with childhood. Now, with the internet and widespread use of social media, stupid things like this can cause lifelong repercussions. Totally agree with you that this isn’t necessarily a reflection of the school curriculum or even the local area. So much information (even bad information) is available to teenagers over the entire country. It sounds like you’ve got a fantastic plan in place to teach your children how to use and respect social media.
    Leslie recently posted…E Turns 5 Months OldMy Profile

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      I know right? I can’t even imagine having some of my mistakes as a teenager broadcast out to millions of people via social media. Harsh.

      Thank you. Let’s see how my plan works. I assume no plan is foolproof and so we will learn as we go. Hopefully with a less kind of sensational learning curve than others have experienced.
      Jen recently posted…Valentine’s Day Inspiration Plus A Kiss To Build A Dream OnMy Profile

  9. Okay, I must live under a rock, because I did not see that picture until now. Wow.

    This scares me Jen. It really does. I wonder about things like this all the time and I know I’ll have to do my due diligence but even so, kids… adolescents’ brains are not capable, nor developed enough to fathom the vast consequences of their actions. Yet here we are in a society where your screw ups aren’t confirmed to kissing bathroom mirrors with lipstick but are magnified and available for all to see and pounce upon. It’s frightening.

    Hopefully by the time my girls are teens’ I’ll have some sense of exactly what I need to do to ensure proper use of social media. We already discuss online safety, even though my daughter doesn’t use the computer other than to play Webkinz or write a report.

    Thanks for sharing. Sorry about the novella… you struck a nerve.
    Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom recently posted…Want to Be More Productive? Start Your Day the Right Way!My Profile

    1. Author

      I am glad I am not alone in the being scared department. What terrified me even more was the comments I saw adults saying about this story. Things like…

      “Glad you ruined your life.”

      “These girls punishments should be very, very strict. Throw the book at them.”

      It was wrong what these girls did, but wow the responses are terrifying. What if someday there was a picture taken somewhere and my kid was in the back not involved and knowing what was going on and they are labeled a part of the picture? You can get lumped in and still have to stand the fire. It all just scares the tar out of me!

      I was a good kid, but I still did some dumb things and I could not imagine having those things broadcast to the world at large.

      So for now I will continue stalking my kids online and working to keep them safe online. If they could only stay little….
      Jen recently posted…Valentine’s Day Inspiration Plus A Kiss To Build A Dream OnMy Profile

  10. WHAT? how did this happen? I’ve been taking a “blog break”, as we have some health stuff we are dealing with and I’m solo with the girls this month. It’s outrageous, thanks for covering this. I’m anti-phones for kids. This will follow them for a LONG time.
    Kristen recently posted…The One Word I Try Like Hell Never to SayMy Profile

  11. Hi Jen and JensGuy, a moment of madness that will stay with them for a long time. I hadn’t seen or heard about this incident, but I am baffled by the stupidity of the girls…. What were they thinking? Unfortunately we live in a society where people will do almost anything for ‘fame’, more follows or just to shock.

    As always it’s up to us as parents to guide, prepare and give our children the knowledge to know right from wrong. That’s not to say these girls parents didn’t do that, sometimes peer pressure is just too much.

    Monitoring our children’s social media activity is a must, they can’t think for one moment that it is acceptable to act one way in ‘real’ life, but like a total jerk in social media.

    It is a crazy world we live in.

    Debbie recently posted…Feeling IntriguedMy Profile

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    There was some more information that was released about the picture. I guess that the African American boyfriend of one of the girls was the one to initiate the girls into taking the picture. That is even more baffling as to why this all happened….

    Indeed what a crazy world we live in! I know you have teens in your life and sometimes they can be mature and sometimes not so much. That is why like you said, guidance and preparation as far as our children is concerned is vital!
    Jen recently posted…Valentine’s Day Inspiration Plus A Kiss To Build A Dream OnMy Profile

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