By Gay Norton Edelman
They're not your usual home videos: Teenage boys crashing their car into a neighbor's fence for sport. A young girl pole dancing in skimpy underwear. A profanity-spewing video-gamester faking his suicide. Two teenage girls assaulting another girl with a deadly weapon. Those are just a few examples of kids so caught up in getting the attention of friends -- and strangers -- that they relinquish privacy, deliberately violate social norms, and willingly join in on law-breaking sprees.
The most disturbing aspect of this look-at-me frenzy, though, is the lengths to which kids will go to make it into the spotlight. Kids too shy to do an oral presentation at school head home and post a video of themselves provocatively performing in barely-there clothing -- or less. Some kids will even fake their own humiliation, as two college students successfully did last February, when they staged a foul-mouthed breakup that had both of them looking astonishingly nasty.
Not that the real-life crowd watching the fight came off any better. Unaware it was all just a hoax, the crowd hooted, hollered, and cheered -- as well as grabbed their cameras to film it -- as accusations of sexual betrayal flew back and forth. All to the delight of nearly half a million YouTube visitors.
Life for teens, it seems, is being lived flat-out online. But what feels natural to kids appalls most adults. Why would anyone subject himself to cruelty, expose himself to ridicule, risk parental and legal consequences, and possibly ruin his reputation forever? The explanation is a tangle of human nature, kids' developmental needs, pop culture, technology, and parenting gone awry. We took a look at the reasons kids are taking such outrageous risks in this disturbing new manner.