Monday, November 19, 2007

13 year olds and their friend's moms. When meanmessages can kill.

I have been doing non-stop TV, magazines and newspaper stories on cyberbullying this past week. Why? Because parents in St. Louis just discovered that the teen they thought was romancing and then harassing their thirteen year old last year, driving her to suicide, was really one of their neighbors. Not another teen. But the mother of another teen, assisted by an 18 year old "employed" by the family.

My most copied sound bite on this is "When adults act like children, there are grown-up consequences."

A recent federal law covers anonymous communications designed to annoy someone. At first we didn't know that this other mom had sent e-mails and IMs to the bullied teen. We thought that we had to turn to other, less powerful, laws to get criminal redress. This law doesn't cover posts on MySpace, just direct communications to the target.

Once we learned that the victim's mother had used a monitoring software and had copies of the communications, I was convinced that the federal law would apply.

The FBI is charged with its investigation, as well.

Even if, for some reason, the law won't work in this case, the victim's parents can sue the other parent. There are a laundry list of things she could be sued for. But something needs to be done.

We have a big enough problem with kids cyberbullying each other and adults cyberharassing one another, but when adults decide to use the Internet as a weapon against someone a third of their age, we have to do something.

And it's also time to amend the federal law to cover posts made anonymously with an intent to annoy. we need all the help we can get. And fewer parents like the one who launched this attack. I don't know how she sleeps at night.

my 2 cents.

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