For many teens and pre-teens, the Internet is an integral part of daily life for social gathering and meeting up with friends. Problems can arise for kids when parents aren’t aware of what’s going on online.
This was evidenced when Facebook was subpoenaed after complaints that minors were being solicited for sex using its site.
More recently, a 13-year-old girl from Missouri named Megan Meier killed herself after she received a critical message on MySpace.
The New York Times claims Megan's 47-year-old neighbor, Lori Drew, gained access to an 18-year-old's Myspace user account that Megan believed to be a boy named Josh. However, nobody is admitting if Drew or the minor left the final messages that drove Meier to suicide.
Using the Josh account the 18-year-old woman left a message on Megan’s MySpace page accusing her of being mean to her friends. According to CNN messages on Megan’s MySpace page were mundane matters, like which sports the two enjoyed.
Jack Banas, Prosecuting Attorney for St. Charles County Missouri said the messages changed in tone on October 15, 2006. Someone using the Josh account posted a message saying Meier was mean to her friends and added "I don’t know if I want to be your friend anymore."
Later that week the person using the “Josh” account left another message saying, “This place would be better without you.” Megan’s mother reported finding Megan at the computer crying when she returned home and when trying to find out why Megan was upset, the mother criticized Megan for inappropriate language used in her postings on MySpace.
Megan reportedly remarked to her mother, “I can’t believe you’re not on my side” and ran upstairs. Megan was later found upstairs where she had died from hanging herself. According to Banas, there is no proof that the users of the “Josh” account intended to cause Meier emotional harassment that a jury would believe. Prosecutors also point out that the Missouri harassment statute doesn’t cover the Internet and state stalking statutes require repeated conversations therefore neither statute applied in this case.
Banas says just because he can’t prosecute this instance doesn’t mean no one gets punished. He later told CNN, “The loss of a life of a person that they once talked to as a friend, I'm sure, is just twisting them all up inside.”
Banas might be right, but Drew sure isn't showing it. In another report to the local authorities, Drew stated that she felt the hoax “contributed to Megan’s
suicide, but she did not feel ‘as guilty’ because at the funeral she
found out Megan had tried to commit suicide before.”
Analysts are split in their feelings on where the blame lies in this case. Others feel that if the simple statements made on Megan’s MySpace page that were reported were enough to drive her to suicide, there were much larger issues going on in Megan’s life her parents should have noticed.
The 47-year-old who posed (or at least endorsed the 18-year-old to pose) as Josh claimed she created the account to see what opinions Megan Meier had about her daughter, another teenager.
The only thing that anyone can agree on is that Megan’s death could have been prevented.
quote: An 18-year-old woman gained access to a user account that Megan believed to be a boy named Josh.
quote: The family will have to pack up, leave and change their names
quote: but if I was Megan's father, I'd keep following them putting up billboards wherever they go.
quote: It probably didn't cross her mind that she would never be able to exist again.
quote: This sounds much more like an innate emotional problem compounded by poor parenting, than a situational created by "manipulating online adults". Quite obviously her mother is going to want to point the finger elsewhere, though, than where it really belongs.
quote: take a step back towards reason and rationality
quote: a. We don't know who created this account or why. The media has given us at least two different versions, and neither sounds fully convincing.
quote: f. Why on EARTH would a mother let such a girl have unsupervised online affairs with unknown individuals in the first place? Even if we are being told the whole story (which we almost assuredly are not) that right there is the proximate cause of this event.
quote: ...I would be finding my own justice.
quote: In certain, extreme situations, the law is inadequate. In order to shame its inadequacy, it is necessary to act outside the law. To pursue - natural justice. This is not vengeance. Revenge is not a valid motive, it's an emotional response. No, not vengeance. Punishment.
quote: I would be finding my own justice.
quote: I personally wouldn't be surprised if the mom was simply trying to end relations with the girl for whatever reason, and it got nasty.
quote: End relations over the internet?- Delete Contact in MSN, ignore user at MySpace, no answer to eMails etc.
quote: A 47 year old (playing someone else btw.) TRYING to end relationship - with a 13 year old IDIOT(??) - over the net in a nasty way? A 47 year old does better than that, unless a total moron herself.
quote: An IDIOT is the one who teeses - Not the teased!
quote: The neighbor goes out side and shoots dead both of the burglers trying to make an escape, he walks away without injury. Now many people are claiming the robbers were victims, and the man should be charged with a double homicide.
quote: Everyone wants to side with the "victim" and go after anyone who might have had a hand in that person becoming a victim.
quote: I don't know what it means to feel empathy. I cannot feel another human beings pain, and I cannot understand how someone can feel such despair that they would wish to kill themselves.
quote: People modding you down are christians.
quote: This is why myspace.com and many other social networks will be filtered on my daughters computer.
quote: Not only can it be a danger socially, it promotes mediocrity in my opinion.
quote: if the simple statements made on Megan’s MySpace page that were reported were enough to drive Megan to suicide, there were much larger issues going on
quote: You all modded him down without a second thought. People willingly act to harm other people if even "jokingly". Pot Kettle Black.
quote: So essentially anyone gets hurt, or is hurtful should be taken out of gene pool?
quote: I can't wait to hear all the other wonderful callous ideas for removing people from gene pool you have.
quote: Will anyone be spared? Except you of course...