High school students from across Nassau and Suffolk counties in New York have been posting explicit photos of themselves, sometimes naked, sometimes drunk and sometimes touching each other intimately on a Twitter feed called @LIPartyStories. One now-infamous girl appears in a photograph urinating in a sink while wearing a Happy Birthday tiara.
Welcome to young America.
It is no longer news that narcissism stoked by the Internet can dissolve anything left of the modesty of American teenagers, who already fancy themselves worthy of posting hundreds or thousands of photographs of themselves on Facebook and having their egos pumped up by equally deluded “followers” on Twitter.
It is no longer news that sex (and, to a lesser extent, showcasing bodily functions like urination) has become the ready antidote to feelings of depression and boredom.
What may be news, however, is that parents of such teenagers would need a reminder of how to respond when their sons and daughters circulate photographs of themselves drunk, passed out or in various stages of undress.
Here’s what the parents of all the young people who fed the @LIPartyStories inappropriate images of themselves should do: Confiscate their phones, shut down their Twitter and Facebook accounts and test them randomly for drugs and alcohol every two or three weeks for the next year. Each positive test should result in being grounded for a month. And every one of the teenagers directly involved should be in psychotherapy.
School administrators should suspend each and every one of them from school for two weeks and admit them back to school only with a note from a psychologist or psychiatrist or licensed social worker stating that the student has begun treatment.
Why take such seemingly dramatic steps? Because every, single teenager who sent out a photograph of himself or herself involved in sex or obviously drunk or on drugs via @LIPartyStories is emotionally disordered -- probably suffering with one or more symptoms of a brewing personality disorder (narcissistic personality disorder), very possibly depressed, likely abusing alcohol or drugs or both and very likely addicted to at least one very potent drug: the Internet.
Yes, but for the real Lindsay Lohans of the world who have real movies to promote by faking wardrobe malfunctions, distributing a single photograph of oneself publicly in a state of undress or intoxication or voiding means one is psychologically not well.
That conclusion would have once seemed obvious: A 16-year-old wandering her high school’s hallways handing out photographs of herself urinating in a sink would have been disciplined, dismissed from school and taken to a psychiatrist post-haste. The Internet has simply camouflaged how bizarre such behavior is by making it go viral.
We are in the middle of a worsening epidemic of psychological illness—with elements of narcissism, substance abuse and disinhibition—fueled by the likes of Twitter and Facebook. It threatens my kids and your kids, and all of us have to start believing the epidemic is real.
Keith Ablow, MD is a psychiatrist, and was host of the nationally-syndicated "Dr. Keith Ablow Show." He is a former member of the Fox News Medical A Team.