Penn State Fraternity Scandal – It’s Not Your Kid

Crazy news out of Penn State this week – a fraternity is under investigation after news that not one but two private Facebook pages allegedly created by and for fraternity members contained references to illegal activities and nonconsensual pictures of females in compromising positions. From an article at ABC News:

“In the search warrant the police found multiple pictures of nude woPenn-State-logomen, who appeared to be passed out or in sexual or embarrassing positions. Other photographs reportedly showed drug deals and hazing rituals. Authorities said they were considering criminal charges that could include invasion of privacy as well as harassment.”

This story had a chance of dying out relatively quickly, as there is no shortage of bad behavior to occupy the media these days, until one unnamed fraternity member chose to talk to the press, in this case Philadelphia Magazine. In a pre-interview prepared statement, he offered the following:

“Here’s a quick reality check: everyone — from Bill Clinton to your grandfather to every Greek organization in the nation does the same old stuff, just as they have been for the entirety of human history. That’s where that lil’ old quip, don’t throw stones if you live in a glass house, comes from. And believe me, we all live in a glass house. Thus it is laughably pathetic to see the media spring on an occasional incident such as this, especially a media complicit in overturning the same sexual mores and moral standards that for millennia had at least to some extent curbed outright licentiousness. The fire of indignant, misplaced self-righteousness that looks to ruin people’s lives and unjustly ruin reputations is the abuse and violation that should be at the center of discussion, not the humorous, albeit possibly misguided, antics of a bunch of college kids.”

In the interview for the article, he dismisses the Facebook pages as “satire”, a description that is understandably falling on deaf ears.

The players here are not fully formed adults; they are fraternity kids who are finding their way in the world and at least one didn’t think they did anything wrong. 144 of them felt free to join, post on and/or engage with the Facebook page, seemingly without fearing any negative fallout.

This story hits ways too close to home for me. I have two teenage boys and live in Central New Jersey. Penn State is a very popular school in this area for kids not fortunate enough to get into a more elite school. But Penn State isn’t the problem. Neither are fraternities.

The problem is multifaceted:

  • At least some kids think it’s okay take pleasure in viewing pictures of women in compromising positions taken without their consent
  • At least some teens think it’s all in good fun to post those picture semi-publicly online
  • No one in a position of authority (until it is too late) knows that they’re doing it and telling them not to

I’m guessing that parents across the country are reading stories like this one in horror and thinking, “At least it’s not my kid.”

Are you sure? At times like this, we’re happy that we started ThirdParent.

“Don’t objectify innocent women.”

“Don’t post things online that could ruin your future.”

Both of those are parenting messages, or should be. The challenge is that parents have almost no shot at knowing what their kids are posting online, outside of Facebook, which has become more the domain of parents than teens.

If college students are quick to pass off extremely inappropriate online activity as “satire”, can we assume that 14 year olds are thinking more critically about their culpability or negative repercussions when they post online? Hardly.

The goal of the ThirdParent service is giving parents the best chance seeing what is happening with their teens online while at the same time respecting their privacy. You can sign up today. We’re happy to help.




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