On the subject I broached last night on parent supervision of adolescents online, here comes a story where even parent supervision failed in the end. First the St. Charles Journal broke the story, then CNN and ABC News reported on the story of 13 year old girl who after being taunted and defamed online, committed suicide. It turns out that the person who everyone thought had taunted her, a 16 year old boy on MySpace, was really the mother of a girl that Megan Meier had once been friends with. This woman had created a fake account in order to befriend Megan just so that in the end she could be hurtful to her.
Megan’s parents knowing their daughter’s history of depression, ADD, and weight problems, kept a watchful eye on Megan while she was online. Only they knew the password to her account and her profile was set to private so that all friend requests had to first be approved before anyone could see it. Her parents allowed her to accept the ‘boy’s’ friend request and kept an eye on their conversation. At first he was friendly to her. Had he not been, her parents would have terminated the friendship immediately. However, it is likely that because this persona was at first a friendly one that Megan gradually trusted it and was even excited by the fact she gained the attention of a ‘hot’ boy online. This is also why it would have hurt so badly to have him turn on her in such a hateful and malicious way and why, for a girl that had already had problems, it drove her to suicide in the end.
It was a matter of chance that Megan’s mother had been pressed for time leaving with Megan’s younger sister for the orthodontist as Megan began reading the horrible things this boy was saying about her. During a phone call Megan made to her mom crying, her mom urged her to log off immediately. Her mother returned to find Megan having said some mean things back to those that were being cruel to her as she ran away from the computer and up to her room. It was there, in her closet, that Megan hung herself.
What may be the worst part of it all, after their daughter’s death, Megan’s parents let the girl with whom Megan had once been friends with know that Megan had really valued their friendship. This family offered their condolences, invited Megan’s parents to their daughter’s birthday, and even had the Meiers store a Christmas present for them. It was only after another neighborhood girl came forward as to having known about the fake account that the Meiers found out who was really the person behind the boy that was so hurtful to their daughter. Now they had not only lost their daughter, but had also been ‘played’ by the family who had instigated their loss in the first place. The county prosecutor is now looking at ways to try to press charges in the case, while others infuriated with news outlets for protecting the name of the family involved decided to search it out and publicly publish it for all to see.
As far as cyber anthropology goes, this incident could have far reaching effects as Megan’s parents are trying to get laws enacted to protect children from harassment online. It will be interesting to see where this goes and what the trickle down affects are. I’m interested to hear other opinions on this and will continue to follow this story as it unfolds in the press and in the law books.