Tattler.com…is This What It Has Come To?

There is a new website designed for residents of Perham, Minnesota.  It is called ittakesavillageperham.com. According to a recent article in The Forum, the site “urges Perham residents to watch out for and report suspicious activity by minors, such as underage smoking, possible drug use and hanging out in unusual locations … campers, vans, sheds, garages.”

Per The Forum:

Parents, neighbors, concerned residents and even other teens are encouraged to make “citizen reports” through the website, including names and photographs of kids who seem to be engaged in suspicious behavior, as well as where they were seen and what they appeared to be doing. This information might later be shared on the site and with local law enforcement. Last names and photos are not posted to the site.

The site features pictures of people looking through binoculars and spy glasses, along with text such as, “You see them! They are packed into the car like clowns. It’s after midnight and you know they are up to no good! Are they drunk? Are they on drugs? Are they going to a fight? Don’t their parents care?”

“Neighbor used to watch neighbor,” states the site’s homepage, “and if they saw a child doing anything dangerous, would tell his parents. With people not knowing their neighbors, this doesn’t happen like it used to.”

The site’s creators, who didn’t want to be identified, started it as a way to deter kids from using drugs or engaging in other illegal activity.

The issue is personal to them: As one of the creators explained in a telephone interview, her own teenage son had to be sent to a boys’ home for drug addiction. She’s trying to prevent that kind of thing from happening to other families.

“He had been so secretive,” she said of her son’s addiction-related behavior. “And it dawned on me that secrecy was part of the problem, so I thought that maybe this website could help (others).

“If we can keep one kid from trying drugs, that’s our goal, even if it’s only one,” she added.  

Whoa…I don’t think I like this anonymous tattling.  I can see so many ways that this can go wrong. I also do not believe that it will accomplish its goal of deterring drug use or other criminal activity.  What it may do is drive any kids doing these things into darker and more remote corners, create a route for harassment of teens, and empower nosy-bodies to speculate and post at will about what they think the neighborhood kids are doing.

I am sure the folks who started the website had good intentions.  This activity carries similarities to the neighborhood watch program, but the problem with the web page and neighborhood watch is the level of empowerment and responsibility that starts to develop in the citizens that engage with them.  This type of thing can, and has, ended badly.  We have law enforcement for a reason – citizens should report concerns to law enforcement, not anonymously on random websites.

The tattler website needs to go.  The website is invasive, subject to abuses, and could result in a lawsuit.  If folks are genuinely concerned about kids’ well-being they should engage with the public agencies tasked with addressing such matters.

Day one thousand two hundred and twenty-five of the new forty – obla di obla da

Ms. C

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