With everything from funny articles to clever songs to embarrassing videos posted online these days, many people dream of “going viral.” But after posting a YouTube video as a silly prank last week, 21-year-old Evan Emory of Ravenna, MI was arrested and charged with “manufacturing child sexual abusive material.” The video shows Emory singing a vulgar and inappropriate song to what appears to be an entire classroom of young kids. But upon realizing the possibility of 20 years in jail, Emory probably started to regret his 15 minutes of fame.
This serious case of online reputation damage is similar to the Duke “Sex Thesis” last fall when senior Karen Owens created a Powerpoint of all of her sexual exploits throughout college, which then went viral on YouTube. However, in Emory’s case, his “prank” is causing legal action because it involved children, and the video was taken down almost immediately. The story behind the creation of the video was that Emory – with permission from Beechnau Elementary School – filmed himself performing a fun and innocent kids’ song to first graders. The school allowed it for the kids’ benefit, and Emory explained that he wanted to promote his music career. But Emory then went back to the empty classroom for a second performance containing profanity and sexual references, eventually combining the footage of that performance with the smiling and engaged kids of the first performance.
Emory created the video for shock value, but even his lawyer is admitting this was a dumb mistake, saying “He didn’t think it through.” While the school felt that their agreement with Emory was taken advantage of, parents were the most upset because of how their kids were portrayed online. While no physical harm was done to the kids involved, once anything is posted online these days it’s usually permanent (although this video was removed once parents got involved).
A takeaway from this story is that Emory was 21 – imagine what kids in middle school and high school think is “funny” but could actually be seriously harmful to their future. Most kids these days have any or all of the following – cell phones with camera or even video features, digital cameras, or Flip cameras. These exciting and portable gadgets make it incredibly easy to document – and post – anything funny or embarrassing online, but there are always risked involved. Emory is not an online predator – but he’s being charged as such. What could happen to your kids if they too do something online that they didn’t think through?
What do you think of Emory’s YouTube video and possible criminal charges?