The Logan-Salyers story is such a tragic and stupid -- a stupidly tragic – story. There are so many pieces, so many contributing factors, to a mess like this one, that one hardly knows where to begin. Do I think a school board or the police should (or even could) control what students send on their cell phones; or that this particular school board and police agency were negligent; or that parents should monitor what their children send on their cell phones? Probably not, in all cases. But then, I don’t think teens should have cell phones. If they can’t pay for it, then there’s no reason to have one, any more than a car of their “own” (which their parents bought for them).
Jessica Logan was a victim of her peers’ bullying and insensitivity, certainly, but it might not have resulted in her suicide if they hadn’t all had access to such casually powerful technology -- to be able to shoot nude photos of oneself or friends with a hand-held phone and distribute them by electronic mail, to send and receive text messages, and so on. Combined with teenagers’ lack of perspective, and imperfect grasp of the consequences of their actions, modern technological toys are only a little less dangerous than loaded guns.
But it’s not just these kids who made poor choices. I maintain that such deaths are innocent sacrifices to a larger “grown-up” culture of manic production-and-consumption. Parents who both have to work full-time (whether because the economic system has evolved to the point of making single-wage-earner households so much less possible, or because parents force themselves into this rut by living far beyond their means), end up subordinating their neglected kids’ happiness and safety to their own long hours and debts. They can’t be there to love, instruct, and protect their children from their own deadly innocence and the nastier world outside. But then, what do I know? I had a father who was home for part of the day as well as a mother; my parents wouldn’t allow a television in the house; they forced or bribed me to learn violin and run long distance; I despised automobiles as a teen and chose not to learn to drive, obtain a license, or buy a car until I was 27; I did not possess a credit card until I was nearly 40 (and I maintain a zero balance from month to month today). Clearly, I am not on the program . . . and am curiously happy and healthy in spite of that.