about how i felt reading about this

i think i’ve done enough of these “common damn sense” segments for you all to know that what’s coming will involve technology being used by the catastrophically inept.  this one comes to us thanks to kids being jackasses and xbox live.

in late january, messages went out from an xbox live account to about 100 students at berkeley heights high school, claiming that they would be showing up at school the next day with a gun with the express purpose of shooting other students, according to prosecutor theodore romankow.  recipients of the message and their parents, naturally concerned, contacted police in berkeley heights, nj.  a few hours after the message went out, detectives, with the help of their high tech unit, traced the message and xbox ID back to a local high school freshman, who as any kid would do, denied that it was him that did it.

turns out that he was telling the truth.  after some further investigation, microsoft stepped in after checking their user logs, determining the message actually originated in maryland, not new jersey.  a road trip later by detectives and the high tech unit, a maryland teenager (whose name was not released) was arrested.  apparently the whole thing was a prank after some kind of shady transaction between the two high schoolers over xbox live.  no new details were available but thankfully, no students were in any real danger.

this is 2011.  the obscene amount of digital contact and communication methods isn’t just available to adults.  this is the technology the current generation of kids are growing up with.  things like facebook are only one form of social interaction – services like xbox live and the playstation network also provide a platform for digital communication.  and of course, what comes with every method of communication is the ability to cause havoc.  as these methods become more mainstream, and with the ease and instant transmission speeds they provide, a simple statement can have a big impact.  so it was just a prank, right?  the problem was that this prank involved making death threats to children.  for high school students that grew up in this digital age, they should really know better.  the nature of this prank registers it as a crime, and the maryland student will be prosecuted locally.

this should be a warning to parents.  a game console isn’t just a game console anymore, it’s a network-equipped computer.  educate yourselves on what your kids are using and how they work.  there needs to be an awareness about what kind of technology kids are using and what it’s capable of.

and so i offer my services, as should every geek to non-geek friends and family.  hell, even strangers.  we fix their computers, set up their networks and do a myriad of other geeky tasks for those around us – just giving them some facts on what technology is available to their kids is part of our responsibility.  i’ve had talks with curious parents in video game aisles at my local best buy about what games would be good for their children of various ages.  i didn’t volunteer this, but they asked, and as someone in the know i felt responsible to answer fully.  they leave educated, with a thank you, and i know that i’ve helped someone make a better decision than what they would have made before.

i can’t really hold a kid to have too much common sense.  but we do.  and as it fits appropriately with the current trend of game / tech marketing and advertising, it’s really some common damn sense that needs a viral campaign.

to see the official press release on this incident, go here.

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1 Comment

Rob February 15, 2011 at 8:27 pm

So how long will it be before they release the suspect's play history – finding Black Ops takes up the lion's share of his game time? And how much longer will it be – after that – that they connect the game and the kid's behavior?

As someone with 10 nieces and nephews – more than one of which has proven themselves to be remarkably impressionable in a terrible way – I worry about the impact of these games. On the other hand – as an avid gamer and someone interested in making games – I worry about where and how the lines are drawn.

Things would be a lot better for everyone – in and out of the gaming world – if parents just parented their kids again.

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About Tushar

Author and creator of Technical Fowl. IT/Tech hero. Jiu Jitsu purple belt. Enjoying the venn diagram intersection of tech, gaming, business, and politics.

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