The Internet and the Dangers it Poses for Youth Today

“To put this in perspective, one of the main purposes of this gun is as a self-defense weapon against bears.”

I am often floored by the stupidity of youth. Do not get me wrong; by no means was I not afflicted by this same genetic predisposition of attempted stupicide (killing yourself because your hormonal imbalances cause you to do suicidally dumb things). However, my attempts were within the range of what I would consider normal for a young man. Especially a young man who was a paratrooper.

For example, rappelling out of the third floor of the barracks was probably not my brightest moment. I can also remember being strictly forbidden to go into certain parts of the country of Panama due to their hatred toward Americans. This, of course, mandated that my friends and I would drive through that part of the country while screaming out the windows that we were Americans. No, I freely admit to my own stupidity and sometimes wonder at my survival during those years.

However, one of the things that no one ever had to instruct me on was to not have someone shoot a book that I was holding up to my chest. Unfortunately, this cannot be said of Pedro Ruiz. Pedro was a young man who wanted to make a name for himself. He and his girlfriend, Monalisa Perez, were wannabe YouTube stars. They would film themselves doing pranks and were trying to get more subscribers to their channel. Their solution was to come up with more and more outlandish events to film. Claudia Ruiz, Pedro’s aunt, was told about the stunt in advance. When she inquired why they would want to use a gun, he stated, “Because we want more viewers; we want to get, you know, famous.”

Prior to the incident, Ruiz showed his girlfriend a book he had shot with a gun, which stopped the bullet. This, in turn, grew into an idea of having her shoot a book while he held it. She reportedly said no at first but was eventually talked into it. Prior to actually attempting the stunt, Perez tweeted, “Me and Pedro are probably going to shoot one of the most dangerous videos ever. HIS idea not MINE.”

The night of the shooting, Ruiz set up two cameras in order to make sure that the event was properly captured. He then had Perez take a .50 caliber Desert Eagle and shoot the book he was holding at chest height. To put this in perspective, one of the main purposes of this gun is as a self-defense weapon against bears. The round easily penetrated the book and went directly into Ruiz. Perez immediately called for help, but despite the efforts of the paramedics, Ruiz was pronounced dead at the scene. Perez, who already has one child with Ruiz and is pregnant with their second, is now facing manslaughter charges and could spend the next ten years in prison for her part in this stunt.

I am not in any way making light of this situation. Due to the consequences of their actions, two children will now grow up never knowing their father. There is nothing humorous in this travesty. Further, the life of Monalisa is now ruined. Even if she doesn’t serve any time in prison, she will have to live with the result of her action for the rest of her life. She will need to have the conversation with her children about how she killed their father.

What strikes me about this is how the need to be famous overshadowed the clear and obvious danger of this so-called “stunt.” I am constantly shocked as to what the youth of today find entertaining. I will occasionally watch YouTube videos with my son, and many of the pranks that these teenagers perform border—and occasionally cross—the line of legality.

I remember once watching a video where two teenagers were pranking individuals by pretending to defecate on the individuals’ cars. One would pretend to do the action while the other hid and filmed the encounter. In one case, a man came out and was visibly upset. He pulled out his taser and shot the kid with it. His friend comes running out screaming that it was just a prank. That could have easily been a gun instead of a taser.

In a separate video, a man walked around the city making derogative racial statements. He would pass a Hispanic person and say something along the lines of, “Look at that stick.” I am sure you can see what the Hispanic person heard. In each case, the Hispanic man would become violently angry and attempt to engage the kid. At this point, the jokester would point out the camera and explain what he really said. Sometimes the person would laugh. Other times the young man would get chased away. How easy would it have been for someone to pull out a gun or knife?

At some point, our society needs to get back to instilling values in our youth. This is not to say that there are not parents out there who do so. However, there was a time when the community at large would not accept such behavior. I personally have talked to my children about this cultural acceptance of such dangerous actions. Hopefully it is enough.

I remember a great quote from Jurassic Park where Dr. Ian Malcolm is arguing with John Hammond about the creation of the dinosaurs. He states,

“I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here—it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now you’re selling it, you wanna sell it.”

This is the exact problem that we are having with technology and society.

The technology is evolving faster than we can create the social constructs to regulate it. So in lieu of that, children develop their own idea of what is acceptable. The problem is that these children do not have the life experiences to understand their own mortality. Worse yet is when those who should know better sit back and idly watch or only make halfhearted attempts to intervene.

Claudia Ruiz had this chance. Hindsight is always twenty-twenty, and I know it is unfair to judge someone when I am not sitting in their shoes. However, there is a very powerful lesson to take away from this event. Had she taken a much stronger stance, this event may not have occurred. We as a society need to take heed of this event so that history does not continue to repeat itself.

I would hope that the parents out there who read about this event make sure to take a few moments and talk to their children about such stunts. These events are not simply relegated to improper use of firearms either. Kids jumping off bridges, racing trains, or playing chicken on the highway are all considered normal and feats to be venerated by the youth of today.

Fame, especially on YouTube, is fleeting at best. With the internet allowing anyone to be discovered immediately, there is no more lasting power of the famous. Claire Danes, a veteran actress, once said, “People confuse fame with validation or love. But fame is not the reward. The reward is getting fulfillment out of doing the thing you love.”

This is the lesson we must promote.

Matthew Wadler

Matthew Wadler is a Senior OpsLens Contributor and U.S. Army veteran. Matt served in the Army for 20 years as both enlisted and officer before retiring. His service includes time as Military Police, Field Artillery, Adjutant General, and Recruiting. His deployments include Somalia and two tours to Afghanistan. His formal education includes a master’s degree in HR Management. He is a strong supporter of the constitution and advocate for the military and veteran communities. Follow Matthew on Twitter @MatthewWadler.

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