Friday, July 25, 2008

A Cruel and Needless Death…

As this story continues to be in the news, I decided to share my thoughts on this as posted originally for KidsTerrain's Expert Blog Series last November...

I’ve been mulling over this topic for several days now, trying to wrap my mind and emotions around this horrific story. It is sad enough when a child feels so despondent that the only alternative is to take one’s life. But, in the case of Megan Meier, knowing that a parent…a neighbor who lived just four houses down from the child…played a part in this child’s death overwhelms me.

Megan’s parents were not neglectful; they did not allow their daughter unfettered access to MySpace. According to journalist Steve Pokin of the St. Charles Journal, Megan’s mother monitored quite closely whom her daughter added as a friend to her MySpace page.

The cyber-friend was ‘Josh Evans,’ a sixteen-year-old, good-looking boy (a fake photo) who claimed to live nearby and who was home-schooled. With her mother’s permission, Megan began on online friendship with ‘Josh.’ Once Megan’s trust was gained, the contact from ‘Josh’ grew nasty and vile. ‘He’ posted comments such as, “Megan Meier is a slut.”

The truth of this story may never have been known had another parent—who learned of the phony account from her own daughter who had access to the ‘Josh’ profile—not told Megan’s parents about the hoax several weeks after Megan’s death.

What sticks in my craw, not only in this case, but in the virtually unrestrained world of cyberspace, is how, once again, the law is not protecting our children. The woman who created ‘Josh Evans’ phony profile has not been charged with a crime. She allegedly told the St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department she “created Josh’s profile” to gain Megan’s confidence and find out what Megan was saying about her own child online.

There is no law on the books to hold the neighbor-parent responsible for her actions. And it has taken nearly a year for the Megan Meier story to hit the national and international news. Megan’s parents are now leading the charge to create more legal safeguards for children on the Internet.

Incidents of cyber-bullying seem to be growing exponentially. For parents and teachers, dealing with child bullies is tough enough. But when the bullying of a child is done by an adult—a neighbor, a child’s friend’s parent—it’s enough to make me want to throw the right to privacy out with the bath water.

(Posted originally on 11/29/07 for KidsTerrain)

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