“Someone made an AIM account and posed as me. They were telling everyone I was a lesbian!” “Me and my friends Photoshopped our other friend to make it seem like he had man-boobs.” “My boyfriend texts other girls all the time and they send pics back and forth mostly naked.”
Are these actions harmless, or do they cross a line? With half of all 14- to 24-year-olds admitting they’ve been digitally abused, it’s a timely, integral question. And MTV is trying to help teens answer it–by asking each other.
Launching today, “Over the Line?” is an online app that crowdsources ideas on digital ethics. In the vein of meme sites such as FML and Texts From Last Night, users anonymously share and rate stories–some funny, some dramatic–about sexting,
constant messages, spying, cyberbullying, et al. The idea is that, along the way, teens will discern the difference between “digital use” and “digital abuse.” (The aforementioned AIM imposter, for example, garnered an 85% “over the line” rating; sexting scored even higher.)
It’s an admirable–and engaging–effort by MTV to tackle a hot-button issue that’s had some very real consequences. According to a December study released
by MTV and the Associated Press, 30% of 14- to 24-year-olds have sent or received nude photos of other young people on their cell phones or online, and 12% of those who “sext” have contemplated suicide. Last year, in an extreme case, a Cincinnati high school girl hanged herself after a topless cell-phone photo she sent to a boy was forwarded on to fellow students.
But “Over the Line?” isn’t MTV’s only assault on digital abuse. Four months ago, its “Redraw the Line” challenge had young people create their own anti-sexting and cyberbullying solutions for a $10,000 prize and $75,000 development budget. The finalists, which you can vote on here, include a streaming video chat service that connects young people with trained counselors (awesome), and an app called “Little Puck” that “regularly presents users with horoscope-style updates on their
digital use” (wtf?!).