Three teenage boys from New Jersey were bored one evening, so they decided to take a drive: a mean drive. While cruising down the street they spotted innocent bystanders on the side of the road and shouted out obscenities. It was one of many outings.
To a woman washing her car, they screamed, "Wash that car, you filthy skank!"
To a guy wearing a bathing suit, they said, "Put on some clothes, you sick bastard!"
These are the nicer insults -- most are simply too vulgar to publish.
Teenage boys behaving badly has been around since, well, since there have been teenage boys. But now, technologically savvy young people have a new way to act out. They bring along their video cameras or video phones, record what they're doing and then upload their pranks for the whole World Wide Web to see. That's what the boys in New Jersey were doing and their videos have become popular spots on YouTube.
"We know it's wrong, we know it's mean, we know we're cowards, but, like, that's the reason why we're doing it," said one of the drive-by participants, Steven Bogda, now 20 years old.
"2020" wanted to know what they told their parents before they went out and did this. Surely they didn't say, "Hey Mom, I'm going out to yell at people. I'll be back in a few minutes."
"Well, at first when I was younger, I didn't tell her," said Bogda's friend and former accomplice, 20-year-old Tom Del Guercio. "But eventually she was like, 'Just don't get in trouble,' pretty much."
When asked if his mother was proud, Del Guercio laughed and said he didn't know.
The boys' drive-by videos have become wildly popular on the Internet, attracting more than 6,000 fans on MySpace alone.
"We get messages every day saying, I want another video, give us another video," Del Guercio said. "We get like about 20 new friends every day on MySpace requesting to be our friend."
If it weren't so mean-spirited, it's understandable that boys would find such impromptu, improvisational comedy appealing.
"It's just words," Del Guercio said. "I mean there's a lot of other things people could be doing, so … I don't think it's as bad as, you know, a lot of other things people our age could be doing."
In a way, he has a point. At least they're not physically hurting anyone or damaging property. Many kids post videos of themselves blowing up mailboxes or smashing windows or throwing food and hot beverages at drive-through fast-food employees, a cruel prank known as "fire in the hole." The videos are not legal and many have been pulled from sites like YouTube.
According to Susan Bartell, a psychologist specializing in teenage behavior, pop culture is influencing people to act meaner.
"People are definitely meaner today than when we were growing up," she said. "Being mean makes you famous. Look at, say, Simon on 'American Idol.' That's making him much more famous. It's making the show more famous. And kids and adults are watching that kind of thing, and that's being role modeled for them."
There's a correlation, she said, between fear and respect. And the information superhighway makes it super easy for teens to be even meaner.
"The fact that they know so many people are watching them online is fueling them to keep upping the ante," Bartell said.