Bad Behavior Is Trending Online, Spilling Over into Real Life

Young children know that name-calling is wrong. Tweens are taught the perils of online bullying and revenge porn: It's unacceptable and potentially illegal.

But celebrities who engage in flagrant attacks on social media are rewarded with worldwide attention. President Donald Trump's most popular tweet to date is a video that shows him fake-pummeling a personification of CNN. Reality TV star Rob Kardashian was trending last week after attacking his former fiancée on Instagram in a flurry of posts so explicit his account was shut down. He continued the attacks on Twitter, where he has more than 7.6 million followers.

While public interest in bad behavior is nothing new, social media has created a vast new venue for incivility to be expressed, witnessed and shared. And experts say it's affecting social interactions in real life.

"Over time, the attitudes and behaviors that we are concerned with right now in social media will bleed out into the physical world," said Karen North, a psychologist and director of the University of Southern California's Digital Social Media Program. "We're supposed to learn to be polite and civil in society. But what we have right now is a situation where a number of role models are acting the opposite of that ... And by watching it, we vicariously feel it, and our own attitudes and behaviors change as a result."

Catherine Steiner-Adair, a psychologist and author of "The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age," said she's already seeing the effects.

She said she's been confronted by students across the country asking why celebrities and political leaders are allowed to engage in name-calling and other activities for which they would be punished.

On some middle-school campuses, "Trumping" means to grab a girl's rear end, she said.

And teenagers have killed themselves over the kind of slut-shaming and exposure...

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