I've been following the sad story of Megan Meier on the Today Show and on other blogs. For those who are not familiar with her story, Megan was a 13 year old who suffered from ADD and depression, along with self-esteem issues. She was taking medicine, staying involved in school and athletics and was really trying to turn her life around. She ended a friendship with another girl though and the girl's mother (Lori Drew) decided to do some snooping. How? She used MySpace, created an account of a mythical boy and had that "boy" flirt with Megan. The mother's reasons- to get Megan to talk about her child and see what she was saying. I'm not sure if Megan ever said anything, but after so many weeks online flirting "Josh" turned on Megan and was really ugly to her. Megan took that to heart and hung herself, just shy of her 14th birthday.
Megan's mom say they did monitor her time online. They made a call today on the Today Show asking for schools to step up with the cyberbullying lessons. More on that in a bit. I want to add my 1 Cent on Ms. Drew's abuse.
1. On MySpace it says you're not suppose to post messages to harrass. Calling Megan the names she did, well that's harrassing.
2. The Terms on MySpace also say that " all registration information you submit is truthful and accurate". Obviously the person who created the account of "Josh" did not. My Space- step up and prosecute. Show that you are not going to allow people to abuse your services like this! Set an example!
3. Oops! Megan's mom is in violation because her daughter was not 14. No one under 14 should be on MySpace. There are reasons for that. One is for safety of the children, the second is because usually children under 14 do not have the mentality for online social networking, and I'm sure there are 3rd, 4th and more reasons.
4. Prohibited content on MySpace includes: is patently offensive and promotes racism, bigotry, hatred or physical harm of any kind against any group or individual (Drew's last post by Josh was offensive and promoted hatred of Megan.)
5. The following content is not allowed:
a. harasses or advocates harassment of another person (Drew to Megan)
b. solicits personal information from anyone under 18 (Her thoughts were personal, and that was the reason she created the account to begin with - to solicit what Megan was saying about her daughter)
c. promotes information that you know is false or misleading or promotes illegal activities or conduct that is abusive, threatening, obscene, defamatory or libelous (Her information was false, misleading and was abusive to a troubled teenager. She also defamed Megan.)
Yes, I believe Drew should be held liable for her actions of posing as a teenager when in fact she is a mother of a teenager. This is not the first case of abuse online that has caused a teenager to take their life, but it is a case of a grown adult (a mother!) against a child.
Okay, I'll stop rambling. I have more thoughts on that but I want to get to the cyberbullying in schools.
There are a lot of schools that have embraced the 21st century skills and are teaching these to the students. Look at people like Jennifer and Vicki Davis. They are teaching blogging, online collaboration, and using other online tools. The ones who are teaching these skills, then cyber bullying is part of their curriculum. I dare say that the teachers who are not teaching these skills or who are only glossing over the use because they know they should but not because they totally believe in them forget the importance of teaching ethics with these skills.
If there are any parents who are reading this, check with your children's teachers and ask if they are teaching cyber ethics along with the technology skills. If you are a technology teacher (whether a classroom teacher who uses technology or you teach technology)- make sure others are also teaching about cyber ethics. I know when I taught business ed, the first week of class was always the safety in a business classroom and when using online technology. Safety for me included ethics. My colleague who taught the exact same thing did not teach the ethics part. She was more concerned about the students sitting properly and leaving the room right and then producing well typed out documents. But there was a difference of beliefs and techniques and so maybe that's why her computers were the ones the students practiced sending viruses on. My kids went through that portion in ethics.
And parents, have your child sign an AUP for home use of the computer as well. They cannot use the computer without you sitting over their shoulder unless they sign an agreement of behavior online. Make sure you enforce it. My son's not a techno kid, but we have our own agreement for video games and online activities. He was caught cheating on a game with his cousin and lost the rights to his DS and multiplayer games until Christmas holidays.
As a community member, a parent, and a teacher we need to encourage ethical use of computers and model the behavior as well.