When news of the Arizona shootings broke a few weeks ago and 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner was arrested at the scene, law enforcement and the media alike immediately went online “to decipher Loughner’s digital footprint.” With most people on at least one social networking site these days, checking online profiles or postings can provide some of the most telling information about someone. While Loughner was troubled in school – exhibiting troubling behavior, prone to outbursts in class, and asking inappropriate questions – it seems as though his online activity revealed the most about his disturbing thoughts and disdain for the government that led to the tragic January 8th shootings.
Loughner put plenty of information online to be interpreted. From writing “Good-bye friends” on his MySpace page to posting YouTube videos with angry and often incoherent messages, much of Loughner’s mental issues exhibited at school were just as prominent online. His YouTube message videos included comments about his desire to create his own currency, his idea that his “school was illegal according to the US Constitution” and his belief that he couldn’t “trust the current government because…the government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar.” Loughner also posted similar commentary on a site called abovetopsecret.com.
Of course, this is an extreme example of someone with alarming online activity, but parents should always have a good idea of what their kids are doing online. Even if your own kids aren’t posting inappropriate or harmful content, there are plenty of people out there who are – and kids can easily get access to that information. Talk to your own kids about how and with whom they communicate online and what kind of sites they go to – and hopefully they won’t be exposed to disturbing content posted by people like Loughner.
What is your reaction to Loughner’s troubled online behavior?