When I read about Tyler Clementi, my heart broke for him and his family. Then one word came to mind: morals. As in, where were Dharun Ravi’s and Molly Wei’s morals during their little caper?
These two so-called “friends” taped Clementi’s intimate moments and broadcast them online. They thought it was funny. They tweeted about it and had a laugh. I found it difficult to understand how these two students did not stop to think about the consequences. I mean, that’s what morals are about. Thinking ahead. Doing what’s right. Having empathy and compassion. Not hurting others — even when no one is looking.
In this day and age, kids are very smart and bright. This generation is exposed to a lot and allowed to make more choices yet they aren’t always given the tools and guidance they need to do what’s right. I see in my family and in larger society with toddlers to teen where parents allow their kids the choice of how they will behave, what they eat, when they will sleep and where they will sleep. Too often, parents are focused too much on grades and being their child’s BFF, and not enough on laying down the law. As a result, America’s youth are becoming more violent, verbally abusive and indifferent toward others — and not just the poor, urban, disadvantaged kids either. The Clementi case is the perfect example. But not the only one. I see it all the time within reality TV and on the street. Freedom is good but it must include strong moral guidance. Whether it comes from religion, culture or someplace else. Kids seriously need it.
Moving forward, technology, cyber-bullying and privacy are also important issues, but we can not water down the role ethics played. Yes, technology makes bullying easier. Yes, Clementi’s privacy was violated. Somehow those discussions do not entirely focus blame front and center. First with the two students. Second, the culprits’ parents. Third with society for making it okay to dehumanize others (e.g. fatties, sluts, gays, Muslims, Blacks, immigrants, etc). We can not solve this problem if it’s “nobody’s fault.” Dan Savage is making the connection between the religious right and gay-bashing. We must support groups doing similar work. Once we address the three core issues of individual, parental and societal responsibility, then we can examine the internet and technology within their proper context.
Again, my sympathy goes out to the Clementi family. I hope this tragedy becomes a teachable moment about the importance of morals. God knows we need it.