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Just who is teaching whom?
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Friday, 07 December 2007 02:28

In August of 2006, a girl met a boy. Where? On myspace, of course. The teen had been contacted by the boy who claimed to have moved from Florida to nearby O'Fallon. Their Internet relationship blossomed over the next six weeks, and the girl was on cloud nine. But then, the proverbial hammer fell and on Sunday, October 15, 2006, the boy contacted her stating he wanted to break off their relationship. The teen was crushed, and by Monday, several classmates had added to her distress by posting taunting expletive laced myspace bulletin boards. Later that day she was found hanging in her closet. She died the next day. In a sense, this story is reminiscent of the type of tragedies that can occur when an Internet relationship goes bad. Sadly, this case was much darker than the tragic yet all too familiar "girl meets boy online" scenarios.

The girl was 13-year-old Megan Meier of Dardenne Prairie, Missouri, who had been previously diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder and struggled with clinical depression. She also struggled with weight problems—the bane of any teenager's existence in an era where anorexia seems to be all the rage. The boy was a 16-year-old male persona that had been concocted by a neighbor, the mother of Megan's one-time friend.[1] In news reports, the woman alleged that she created the account to monitor what Megan was saying about her own 13-year-old daughter. She also alleged that she provided the access information to her daughter and her daughter's friends. When the Meiers learned of this, they alerted authorities. The neighbor's actions however did not violate any existing laws and the press seemed determined to keep her identity private.[2]

Not surprisingly, on Tuesday, November 13, 2007, the neighbor was "outed." Shortly thereafter, on Sunday, November 18, 2007, someone created a blog, titled "Megan had it coming." The writer's first post, "Set the record straight" was pretty much a tirade against the deceased teen, ending with:

"So nobody in the news talks about what Megan the bitch was like so now you know. Oh and don't bother trying to figure out who I am. Unlike Megan, I DO have a boyfriend and he knows computers and he totally covered my tracks."

By Monday, December 3, 2007, the writer seemingly lifted their veil of anonymity, purporting to be none other than Lori Drew and claimed that they chose to create the fake myspace account out of desperation after Megan had allegedly bullied her own daughter on-line. Fox News however reports that the author behind the blog is not Lori Drew and law enforcement is investigating to determine whether they can charge the writer under their newly enacted cyber harassment law. A law that was enacted in response to Megan's death. Blogspot alleges that they have received no complaints that the newly created blog is, in fact, a forgery. Welcome to the under belly of the beast. The cyber beast, that is.

Ignoring the quite obvious problem of allowing 13-year-old children on myspace, cyber bullying has become increasingly problematic over the past decade. This unnecessary tragedy exemplifies the type of emotional pain that can be inflicted with nothing more than mere words. Bullying is not new. The Internet simply brings with it an added dimension—one that more often than not results in the perception of being in a fish bowl with the whole world peering in. While in reality, this is rarely the case—that is, outside of those incidents that receive media attention, whose audience is but a small segment of society—perception is nine-tenths of the law. And most respond based upon their perception as opposed to the reality of any given situation. Hence, the emotional impact of cyber bullying is arguably an order of magnitude above that of school yard bullying. And we, being the univerisal we, are charged with the daunting task of how to address this ever growing problem. While we can certainly enact laws in response to victimization, once the law comes into play, someone has already been victimized. Thus, it would behoove us to ponder the question, "How do we, as responsible adults model pro-social conflict resolution?"

Lori Drew's choice is not even remotely the solution. For a number of reasons, the least of which involves the fact that she used deception. It is unfortunately no wonder that someone (assuming the blogger is truly not she) would resort to deception by creating the "Megan had it coming" blog. Especially considering that she modeled such behavior by not only concocting but orchestrating that ill conceived tomfoolery, whose ultimate outcome was the death of a mentally ill teen. That she is a middle-aged adult only serves to compound the egregious behavior, and to some, moves it into the criminal realm. What makes her choice even more disturbing however is that she chose the method that is often used by paedophiles and sexual predators to lure their victims into real-world encounters. Which begs the question, "Just who is teaching whom?"


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