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Cyber-Bullying Gets Its Day In Court

Posted by susabelle at 9:22 AM on July 3, 2009

I live in the St. Louis metropolitan area, which is where the whole Lori Drew/Megan Meier thing began.  So, despite the fact that Lori Drew was charged, initially convicted, and now tentatively cleared in California, we in this area have been watching the case closely.  Some of it is gawking at a train wreck, but some of it is knowing that our children could have been Megan Meier, and that what Ms. Drew did was inexcusably wrong.  We also know that what she did was not necessarily illegal.  There is often a huge gulf between what is right, and what is legal.  Lori Drew crossed the morality/ethics line, but didn’t necessarily cross the legal line.

I, for one, am happy to see her conviction thrown out at this point. It is not that I don’t want punishment to exist for cyber-bullies.  I think many of us can agree that cyber-bullying, or bullying of any kind, is wrong and there should be some sort of punishment or at least a deterrent for bullying behavior.  The attempted prosecution of Lori Drew was not the best way to handle that.

As a parent, I can feel deeply for the loss suffered by Megan’s parents.  Megan was a beautiful young lady, albeit with mental health issues, and her death is tragic.  But also as a parent, I can also say that parents have a responsibility to keep their kids safe online.  A thirteen year old with a myspace account is asking for trouble, in my opinion, unless the parents are spending every second of that child’s online time sitting beside them.  A thirteen year old with a history of severe depression and threats of suicide with a myspace account and incomplete parental supervision is asking for awful things to happen.

The good that has come from this whole thing is that our state governments are now looking into passing cyber-bullying laws that will help protect people.  This is, of course, a very slippery slope, but a bully who beats or brow beats someone in real life can face very real consequences.  A cyber-bully should face similar consequences for such actions.

And has Lori Drew paid for her cyber-bullying of Megan Meier?  In a way, yes.  She was run out of her neighborhood by her neighbors, and lost so much business after the negative publicity that her business failed.  She as reportedly moved out of state to start over somewhere else.  Hopefully she feels some remorse for what she did.

And while Megan Meier’s parents continue to be active in having cyber-bullying laws passed to protect children in the future, I hope they also learned a lesson that can be passed on to others:  your children are not safe online unless you ensure that they are.

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