|The story below is originally published on Mainichi Daily News by Mainichi Shinbun (http://mdn.mainichi.jp).|
|They admitted inventing its kinky features, or rather deliberately mistranslating them from the original gossip magazine.|
|In fact, this is far from the general Japanese' behavior or sense of worth.|
In the hands of mean teens, cell phones becoming WMDs 2007,3,21
Aera 3/26 By Masuo Kamiyama
"Human communications have become increasingly superficial," sighs Yasuko Nakamura to Aera (3/26).
Nakamura, president of Boom Planning, has been tracking youth fads for over two decades.
And she has noticed lately that among teens, use of ubiquitous cell phones has been shifting from voice conversations to mail messaging to posting of personal profiles on SMS sites.
Just a bunch of kids, enjoying some innocent fun, right? Er, no. The heady mixture of teen hormones and IT seems to be generating the high-tech versions of the lynch mob.
Ayana, age 18, is presently in her third year of high school.
She recalls to Aera a "Miss Hospitality" contest held during an extracurricular festival at her school.
When a classmate finished in 2nd place, a few others decided to rub it in. It was all in good fun of course.
First, someone began referring to her as "Nichan" -- a play on words for 2-Channel, a famous blog -- and other nasty epithets that suggested she was ugly and promiscuous.
A certain boy was suspected to be the instigator, but before long others at her school waded in, and the calumnies reached 1,000 posts.
Some accusations suggested the source of the rumors about her were coming from one of her close female companions.
Were they? No one knows.
But within four months after what was supposed to have been an innocent contest, the by now despondent girl had become a truant, and finally withdrew from the school.
Ayana herself had also been slandered in another bulletin board.
Since her hair was dyed, posters had nicknamed her the "blonde witch" and although parts of her name were obscured on the display, everyone knew to whom the posts referred.
Accessed mainly via mobile phones, these so-called "gakko ura saito" (clandestine school sites), reports Aera, have created a new form of group bullying that's spurring a whole generation of anonymous slanderers who make old-fashioned bullies and meanies seem almost preferable by comparison.
After all, in old-style "ijime," at least you know who your tormentor is.
The electronic version is just as vicious, if not more so, because electronic communications afford complete anonymity.
And of course it's far more difficult for school authorities to intervene, let alone identify the instigators or implement disciplinary measures.
"When I was in high school there was nothing like this," says Chie Kato, a graduate student at Gumma University.
"It's really scary."
Yusuke Katayama, Kato's classmate, agrees.
"They all say they've got to have these kind of sites. Helps them work off stress, they say."
When Media Seek, a producer of content for the mobile internet, surveyed 205 girls between the ages of 13 to 19, 62 percent responded they were aware of the clandestine sites, and 43 percent of these said they had posted comments on them.
One in five admitted to posting malicious remarks about their friends.
Fully half said they had viewed malicious posts about people they knew.
Is it only in Japan, Aera wonders, where can you find situations like these?
―November 2006: A first-year high-school student in Sapporo was discovered to have posted moving images of himself undergoing physical bullying by several classmates.
Two of the offenders, one boy and one girl, were subsequently suspended from the school.
―December 2006: Eight members of a high school baseball team in Nagano Prefecture were found to have slandered a teammate on a bulletin board.
Six offenders were ordered restricted to their homes, and the team was banned from competition for three months.
―February 2007: Six middle school girls in Kobe used their cell phones' digital cameras to photograph one another nude.
They posted the photos on a bulletin board, with an invitation for visitors to rank their favorites.
The Kobe Prefectural Police filed charges for engaging in obscene acts.
Technology to discourage mischief, while imperfect, is there for those who seek it.
Aera introduces the so-called "whitelist" and "blacklist" services offered by phone carriers like SoftBank Mobile and NTT DoCoMo, which either enable access only to specified sites, or block access to most others.
But safeguarding your child from the depravities of this not-so-brave new world definitely calls for informed parenting.
Hidenori Iizuka, a Buddhist priest in Takazaki City, Gumma Prefecture, has a daughter in the 5th grade of primary school.
He doesn't allow her to own a cell yet, but peer group pressure being what it is, she's expecting to get one from middle school.
As Iizuka sees it, if the main purpose of owning mobiles is to help keep parents in touch with their kids -- mainly for the parents' peace of mind -- then that's fine.
"But if that's the case," he asserts, "there's no need for a phone with Internet functions!"
(By Masuo Kamiyama, contributing writer)
（Mainichi Japan） March 21, 2007