Hey Kids: Vandalize our house on Twitter and Facebook!

Hey Kids: Vandalize our house on Twitter and Facebook!

Summary: Social networking is being used as communications mechanisms to orchestrate vandalism of vacant homes.


This Thanksgiving week, my wife and I are in Florida not only to visit my family, but also for another reason: House hunting.

As I wrote in an earlier post, due to the high taxes, deteriorating infrastructure as well as my desire to move to a warmer climate, I'm looking to move out of the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area. So we enlisted the help of a local realtor here in South Florida to help us find candidates that might be our new home.

Some of the homes we have looked at or chosen as potential candidates have been bank owned properties that were foreclosed and are therefore vacant. In South Florida this is not unusual as there is a tremendous glut of available real estate, due to many families in middle class or even wealthy communities having to declare bankruptcy or falling behind in their mortgage payments.

One particular house we liked in Coral Springs -- a pristine four bedroom, three bathroom home with open floor plan, vaulted ceilings, swimming pool and fully remodeled kitchen -- was such a bank-owned property. Over the course of the week, we returned to it three times, in order to compare it to other homes we were narrowing down on our list.

On the third visit, upon pulling up to the driveway, we noticed a junk removal truck. I looked at my wife and our realtor and said "What junk removal? The house is empty." We walked inside.

What we saw made us sick to our stomach. The pristine, beautiful home that we had just seen the previous afternoon, with brand new hardwood floors and new bedroom carpeting was a complete wreck. Water was spilled all over the entire floor of the home, and the hardwood was ruined and was being ripped out. What the hell happened? Was it a pipe burst?

After calling the listing realtor, we had found out what actually happened. That morning, the pool maintenance service had discovered that a lot of water was coming out of the front door. The vacant home had been broken into the previous evening, had been vandalized and was used as a party pad by kids in the local area.

As a parting gift, they smashed the toilets which caused water to damage the entire home.

This type of thing apparently happens all the time in Florida, given the large amount of vacant homes for sale, even in gated, protected communities. But what makes this relevant to technology is that teenagers and pre-teens apparently use social networking services such as Twitter and Facebook to coordinate their attacks.

The local police have apparently already found the culprits, and now the parents of these kids are going to have to pay the bank damages. The youths responsible for the vandalism are are likely going to be charged with felony home invasion. In Florida they are going to be prosecuted as adults, and the penalties could be be extremely severe.

I have to wonder whether or not if these kids who live in these upper middle class communities who have access to services like Facebook and Twitter make it easier for them to communicate and organize their activities. Part of the problem I think may lie with the fact that the parents of these children do not monitor them, or it is simply difficult to do so.

Presumably, the juveniles use alternative Twiiter and Facebook IDs in order to conduct their vandalizing activities, so their parents or legal guardians have no idea what is going on.

There has to be a way to deal with the problem, perhaps by using security software on mobile devices and on the computers these kids use, and reporting all suspicious summary keystroke activity to parents, schools or even law enforcement.

The premise is a bit severe, and I'm not happy with the idea that parents should be spying on everything their kids do. But after seeing what happened to a house that could have been my dream home, I'm inclined to favor strict monitoring of what kids do on their computing devices.

Does your community suffer from home vandalism and do you beleive social networking is partially to blame? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topic: Social Enterprise


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • A Failing Economy brings a strong undercurrent of hate, resentment, anger

    and quite frankly this is a by-product. I don't justify it. But it is what it is.

    If Government continues their 'do nothing' ways, I see civil unrest in our American society, worse is the possibility of civil war.
    Dietrich T. Schmitz *Your
    • RE: Hey Kids: Vandalize our house on Twitter and FaceBook!

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz * Your Linux Advocate - Morality and "Doing the right thing" cannot be legislated. This will continue to get worse as long as people are focused on doing what's "right" for themselves instead of what's right for others - which usually means some sacrifice must be made. (e.g. time, money, goods)
      Bruce Lang
    • A failing economy is not the issue here, and plays no relevance

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz * Your Linux Advocate
      It's just an excuse. Things like this happened all the time over the years, even when money was "falling from the trees" These kids live at home, and money is nothing to them - they have no mortgages or car payments, it's an abstract at this point in life.

      What has changed is the avalibility of empty houses, and the advent of social media at the touch of a button for the "Me generation". That has nothing to do with the economy - all you're doing is blaming your lack of involvement on that of the government. A cop-out really.

      The truth is if parents continue to do nothing, then this will continue.
      The economy plays no role in teenager's behavior.
      William Farrell
  • RE: Hey Kids: Vandalize our house on Twitter and FaceBook!

    Whether or not Facebook or Twitter facilitated the destruction of this home is irrelevant and rather naive of you to write as if its really a huge issue in light of a few issues you yourself point out in your essay. This is a case of where ever I go, there I am. The very things you mention (with the exception of the climate) that you're running to Florida for are the very things that you'll find there. Perhaps the taxes are lower but guess what - the schools (which don't receive nearly as much funding as our schools in NJ do -- a la property taxes) are terrible with many high schools operating as virtual schools and not brick and mortar structures at all. The infrastructure has driven you away? The infrastructure in Florida has suffered terribly, far worse than NY/NJ, in this economy. With all those low-cost foreclosures you're chasing after comes a declining/decimated tax base with no money to support most everything in these communities. No taxpayers and home owners? Stores and business are gone too. More tax payers.

    Your outrage over a bunch of teens partying in a house and destroying it is less indicative of any type of parenting or technology-based issue and far more indicative of a broader problem that has relatively nothing to do with parenting, Facebook, cell phones or Twitter. YOU may have been pissed that the lovely vacant property got trashed, but have you written equally as passionate pieces about teenagers KILLING EACH OTHER in Newark, in your home state? Have you perhaps expressed your outrage at the lack of parental supervision that leads to the murders and violent crimes in Camden?

    Yes, the pretty house got trashed and yes the kids' parents will be held responsible and yes, stupid teenagers will continue to do irresponsible and outright stupid things tomorrow, next week and ten years from now just as they did when we were teenagers. Perhaps you may want to block your own kids' FB accounts or ghost a keystroke recorder onto their laptops, but your outrage is your own and is really not worthy of an entire CNET essay. Next time, pick something that really matters.
    • RE: Hey Kids: Vandalize our house on Twitter and FaceBook!

      @ZebraBall08 It has a lot to do with parenting. I would never do anything like that, because I was brought up with a strict moral code, by my parent.

      I had a few friends, whose parents weren't so strict and they did step out of line, although they would also never have dared to anything like what Jason has described - in a derelict house, which was due for demolition, maybe, but a house for sale? Never.

      I don't think this is a Twitter or Facebook story, this is a story about the general decay of society over the last half century.
  • RE: Hey Kids: Vandalize our house on Twitter and FaceBook!

    I would like to believe that by creating great relationships with my children through conversations will keep them out of that kind of trouble. We talk about different things that happen in the media such as this, and what to do if you find yourself being invited to or among people who are participating in activities that we as a family would not "agree" about.

    We talk about values and not just our values as parents but the values that our children have and are forming on their own. This fosters a learning environment where we can help them make good choices. I am not saying that my kids will never make a mistake or that it is always easy, because it isn't, but I know that by communicating regularly about things that are happening right now, we stand a good chance of helping them become great adults prepared to be a part of creating a helping and caring society.
  • Florida's going downhill

    I wouldn't move here now, with real estate prices declining along with state and local government services. And with children? Be prepared to put them in private schools. Gov. Scott and his GOP/TP crowd are cutting school budgets like mad -- not that they were very high to begin with. The better teachers are leaving. And crime? FL is getting ready to let a lot of convicts out early to cut the prison budget. That'll make things better. Uh huh.
  • RE: Hey Kids: Vandalize our house on Twitter and FaceBook!

    So these kids got together on Facebook or Twitter and planned this? Your story doesn't say. I don't see why you blame social media without proof. Seems to me a bunch of kids got together and said let's trash a house.

    Look at the bright side you now know the neighborhood is full of crime LOL
    • RE: Hey Kids: Vandalize our house on Twitter and FaceBook!

      @Randalllind This is an on going problem and has been proven that Social Media is a major player in this particular problem. Also if Jason lives in the NJ/NY area (I am assuming close to Manhattan like myself, I live 15 minutes from Manhattan in NJ), then crime is nothing new to him.

      He wants to move I would assume mainly because winters in this area suck hard, everything is really expensive (except gas when compared to 90% of other states, well NJ is cheap anyway, NY is not), and the taxes on a house for 1 year here would be enough to cover 6-8 years of taxes in Florida for the same size house or even larger.
  • RE: Hey Kids: Vandalize our house on Twitter and FaceBook!

    The children that do the vandalizing are to blame. Not the method they use to communicate.
  • RE: Hey Kids: Vandalize our house on Twitter and FaceBook!

    Jason is right to move to Florida- it is the most varied culture of the southern states- has low real estate taxes and NO state income tax, and the best weather in the US. If you are job mobile and tech knowledgeable living in Florida is wonderful.
    NJ is a nice place to live(don't go by my opine, I am happy and can be happy everywhere), but the weather, real estate costs and taxes are negatives compared to Florida. BTW- taxes on homes? In Florida I had a home worth 750k- taxes were less than 10k a year- in NJ we own a home we paid 26.5k for, assessed at 58k, taxes are 2100 a year. And the schools in our cities, FL and NJ? They all suck. Education needs to be given at home, no matter WHERE you send your children for schooling.