Social media hasn't been around for that long, but the newly crowned Miss Teen USA just personified expert worries about how what young people say and do online can haunt them the rest of their lives.
Eighteen-year-old Karlie Hay, hailing from Texas, had barely been crowned the new Miss Teen USA this week when some unfavorable tweets came to light from a few years ago. Reported via screen capture in the Dallas Morning News, the tweets found a 15-year-old Hay using the N-word racial slur with gusto.
Hay apologized for the tweets, saying she wasn't the same girl who used that language three years ago and she blamed rap music and her friends for making the behavior seem normal. She will likely keep her crown.
Aside from the remarks being racist, others say Hay committed a complete rookie mistake for a pageant winner: She didn't curate her social media presence.
"If u win any pageant — first things first. Clean up ur page," former Miss Teen USA winner and TV host Kamie Crawford tweeted. "Cus if ur under 21 u shouldn't b drinking&if ur WHITE the n word ain't yo word!"
That's a problem children and teens likely don't grasp until they're old enough to understand and it's too late, as the Deseret News has reported.
"They think they can do anything and because of the anonymity on a lot of the internet, they tend not to think about action and reaction,” parenting expert Kay Wyma told the Deseret News last year. “I don’t think they know any different because that’s what everybody’s doing.”
But that's what American kids who grow up using social media face, as author Jacob Silverman told the Deseret News last year.
“Surveillance is a culture in which we live now and we’re all putting ourselves up for display to be watched,” Silverman said. "There’s a lot of education that needs to be done that tells kids, hey, the stuff you’re doing online, no matter how obscure, is only a search away.”