This has hit the media today. I’m appalled. Not at the video, but at the complete over reaction from some sections of the media. Initially I wasn’t interested. It seemed to be just another silly teenage video posted on Youtube. And it is exactly that. Teenagers being silly. But if you listen to some sections of the media, the video is pornographic and so bad they can’t show you the footage. I smelt moral panic and for that reason alone decided to track down the original. Here it is (it was removed within a few hours, not that you’re missing much). The reason I’m posting it is to dispel the moral panic.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jZUrQ-f3YI

Clearly these girls are joking. They are using a ridiculous slang term for oral sex, gobbs, and saying they will offer a gobb for 80 cents. The price of 80 cents ought to be enough to alert the viewer that this is a parody, a farce. At one point one of the girls says she will even lie on the floor with a muffin in her armpit. It’s absurd. That’s as risque as it gets. There’s no foul language, no explicit descriptions of oral sex or any other sex act, indeed nothing pornographic. Unless you find the word gobbs pornographic (it must be Adelaide slang because I’ve never heard the term before).

This is actually pretty mild stuff and exactly the type of thing teenagers joke about. It’s nothing new. I did it when I was the same age. In fact some our jokes were far more crude and explicit. In fact it’s so bland it should never have made the news.

Here we have to acknowledge the media’s role in beating up these stories. Yes, the girls were stupid for posting it on Youtube, but the larger responsibility belongs to adults in the media who should have decided not to run this as a story. It is, in the end, trivial, un-newsworthy. But no, this was too juicy. So they blurred the girls’ faces and disguised their voices and said it was too shocking to play – leaving us to guess the worst.

The most irresponsible of them all – to date – was the child psychologist interviewed on The Project. She was an utter idiot (I decided to write this after and so didn’t note her name at the time). She repeated three ridiculous and irresponsible myths.

1. That this video will be on the internet forever. 2. That future employers will  not employ these girls because of the video. 3. That they made this video because their frontal lobes are not fully developed yet  (this point alone ought to be grounds to have her disciplined by the Australian Psychological Society, she certainly shouldn’t be practicing as a child psychologist).

The first thing is that the video will not be on the internet forever (update: to prove this the video was removed within the a few hours of me writing this). At some point it will be deleted or just fade into obscurity. The reality is that there are serious preservation problems with electronic data. Technology changes and formats change. There are hundreds of thousands of home videos on VHS tape that will never be seen because VHS technology is redundant and no-one has bothered to transfer them to new formats. Archivists are well aware of these problems. 

The second thing is that this video is trivial and unlikely to be considered worthy of archiving. More importantly, popularity on the internet changes very quickly. Such silly teenage videos are common. This one will fade from people’s memories as soon as the next ‘Youtube sensation’ comes along, maybe tomorrow. This video will likely be forgotten in a very short time.

Given this, how might a future employer see it, link it to the person being interviewed and then think that what they did as a stupid teenager disqualifies them from the job? I sincerely doubt that this video will impact these girls’ future employment prospects in any way.

But the most egregious error was the bullshit about frontal lobes. Talk about misusing controversial neuroscience! This particular research has been distorted through popularisation. As a professional psychologist she should have known this. It refers specifically to risk taking behaviour, not to cognitive capacity. This video was not the type of risk taking behaviour the research is talking about. Not even close.

I am not suggesting the girls did nothing wrong. They clearly contravened their school’s social media policy by wearing their school uniforms and shooting it in the schoolyard. It was foolish and the school has every right to discipline them. But that’s as far as this should have gone. A school matter and nothing more.

Perhaps the lesson for these girls is to realise that it is adults who will be irresponsible and who will exploit their ‘joke’ video to push their adult agendas, whether that is to whip up controversy to sell advertising or to boost one’s ego as an idiot ‘expert’.  As such the fault lies not with the girls, but with the adults.

Note: some of the controversy rests on the fact that these girls are 15. Still children! Well, according to Anglophone conservatives they’re still children. Meanwhile the much praised French film Goodbye First Love is showing in Australia. It is an autobiographical film by Mia Hansen-Love that tells of a 15 year-old girl’s first love (and yes, her first sexual affair).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Re3530rMaAE