NEWS

So what’s the big deal with cell-phone videos? Greek teens say they make them all the time

Could you live without your cell phones? «What? No way!» was the unanimous answer. In the courtyard of the 1st Kifissia High School, the conversation about teenagers’ relationships with their cell phones is getting heated. We are sitting on the bleachers and I am talking to some 15 students of the school, most aged 16. Others look upon their world with trepidation and even awe. In recent weeks, many adults have stayed glued to their television sets to watch the videos kids like these have made with their cell phones. The videos were broadcast late at night, because their content is X-rated, even though it is minors who have made the films and who are featured in them. What do the students themselves have to say about all this? «When you reach the point where you haven’t defined your private space and you’re making out with your boyfriend in the school toilets with the whole class looking on, the last thing you care about is whether someone will tape you. You have already forfeited your privacy at that moment,» says Ella. Videos with racy content are a fact of life and a great lark too, according to this group of students. «I don’t understand why everyone is so shocked all of a sudden. Videos have been around for ages. We know about everything that happens in any school in Athens. We know many of the guys in the videos. They are well known. I don’t know why, but most of the videos come from central Athens and Faliron,» says Aleka. «The video craze has passed on to younger kids,» adds Tonia. «We’ve don’t care about the whole thing that much anymore. We’ve already has our cell phones for like four or five years. When we first got them, we were crazy about them, we spent time on them, wanted the newest, latest thing. Now we’re interested in the basics: talking and sending text messages. Junior high is where things are really crazy. They’ve totally lost it there. That’s practically all they do.» I asked the students whether their parents monitor what kind of material is being sent to and from their cell phones. The question came as a complete shock. Aleka makes things clear: «What do you mean? Like they’d ask us. Anyway, they bought me my cell phone. I think parents are to blame for all of it. First they go and buy their kids a cell phone with all the different gadgets and then they wonder why their kids spend time playing with it.» How and when do children get their first cell phone? «By seventh grade, all the kids have a phone. There isn’t a single person in this school without one,» says Ioanna. «The fact is that most parents buy it before we have to ask.» «I bought my first phone in middle school with the money I earned from singing Christmas carols,» says Panos. Parents all have a different reason for buying their children a mobile phone and select different services. Some will get a subscription connection as part of a family offer deal. Most schoolchildren use prepaid cards. «The cost of my cards is included in my pocket money,» explains Tonia. «That means that if I want to use my phone and have enough money to get by, I have to be careful.» Ella says that her parents gave her a cell phone so that they could get in touch with her. «Sometimes I feel as though the phone gives me less freedom, because my mom can check up on me whenever she likes. If I keep it switched off, they worry even more. The cell phone can be a real source of suppression sometimes,» she says. Irene adds another dimension to the debate. «We spend a lot of time away from home. Between school and private classes we’re outside all day long. So how are we supposed to keep up with our friends? During your break you can send a message or two and keep in touch.» So, what do teenagers do with their cellular phones? «I use my phone mostly to send messages and to take photographs and videos. A phone without a camera is pointless,» says Giorgos. «Messages are the most frequent means of communication, even between couples. They send each other messages like ‘I love you, Baby,’ but when they meet up they hardly exchange a single word. They don’t look at each other in the eye and say those things.» I asked them what the big deal is with recording every moment of their lives. «I make videos and keep them so I can remember good times,» says Panos. «I like watching them later. But it is also a habit that you don’t think much about. You go to a party, you make a short video and send it to your friends who couldn’t go. Just like that, for fun.» «It’s not big deal,» says Maria. «What seems weird to you is just normal to us.» Irene has had one strange experience in her information technology class. «We were downloading videos during class and I saw one of me on the beach the previous summer. Someone had posted it on the Internet. I felt really bad. There’s no way of getting it off. I think things have got out of control,» she says. Ella adds: «Sometimes it’s like you’re replacing your memory by recording everything on your phone. Once it’s there you don’t have to worry about remembering it anymore. Sometimes I’ll see a video and I won’t remember anything about where or when it was made. That is a very strange feeling,» she says. There is talk of cell phones being banned from schools, but these high school students don’t seem too worried about it. «It won’t make any difference. Normally we’re not allowed to have our phones switched on in class, but everyone does. A ban is no solution, because if you can’t make your videos at school you’ll simply make them at home or somewhere else,» says Aleka. (1) Both these articles first appeared in the November 26 issue of K, Kathimerini’s Sunday supplement. The illustration is by Alexandros Tzimeros / www.smartmagna.gr.