I've been the victim of brash Internet comments countless times in my career--mostly on Twitter, that festering cesspool of unrelenting troll attacks.
In one case, I wrote about Millennials hating Baby Boomers and received several hundred comments in a day, some by email but most on social media, from both sides of the generational aisle (both pro and con). The hateful comments? You learn to take them in stride and look the other way. It's part of the job and, frankly, a sign of the times.
Still, I'm an adult who has worked as a professional writer for over 17 years. I wouldn't say I have thick skin, because no one is impervious to hate. I still remember some of the most hurtful jabs, even if they don't exactly define who I am or what I do.
I can't imagine what it's like to read a nastygram if you're a child.
For those who are under 18, having an adult call you a liar or that you look funny can cause a long-lasting impact, and even developmental delays. Kids don't have the hardshell casing of adults; they are looking for feedback as a mechanism of growth.
Thankfully, I was happy to see that Google (by way of the their YouTube platform), decided to do something about it. Late last week, the video-sharing site disabled comments for any videos that show children. It means it will be much harder for haters to hate on kids.
Now, before you start talking about free speech and all of the other typical rebuttals, you might want to check into the background on this decision.
Pedophiles have used the video site as a way to make sexually explicit comments and even to time-stamp videos to alert other pedophiles. It's disgusting.
Of course, it's a stop-gap measure. I'm in favor of disabling comments until YouTube and other sites can figure out a way to block comments using artificial intelligence.
Some have argued that disabling comments prevents younger YouTube stars from engaging with fans, and they have the right to build up their base in this way. Maybe. There are countless ways to engage with fans on social media, some in a more controlled environment than the comment section such as Facebook groups.
From a journalistic standpoint, it's a tough call. The general view across the industry is that article comments tend to be superfluous--social media is a better outlet for this because it creates a forum for discussion, better accountability, and interconnectedness.
But forget all of that.
We're talking about kids here, and some of the rules that govern free speech and behavior are different. Facebook doesn't even allow kids on the platform, likely for the same reason that YouTube disabled comments--it's just too easy to get lured into discussions and a direct message exchange. It's not worth it. Comments are already out of control, and often way too personal. Keep the comments on a more accountable platform for everyone to see and for the tech giants to monitor. Companies like Facebook and Twitter should work much harder to find ways to monitor content but to keep the discussion open and free.
For now, YouTube has to solve the underlying problems. Stay tuned.