Even after the sad case of Megan Meier, who committed suicide after an online hoax perpetrated by a schoolmates’ mother, some people still think that the online world is an anonymous playground where they can vent their frustrations on others with little to no consequences.
Elizabeth Thrasher, a 40-year-old St. Louis woman, was recently charged with felony harassment after authoring an online hoax to embarrass and humiliate a 17-year-old girl. The girl is the daughter of a woman who is dating Thrasher’s ex-husband, with whom—according to reports—Thrasher had a “deteriorating relationship.”
After a recent fight with the woman, the teen sent Thrasher a MySpace message, telling her to grow up. Instead of acting like an adult, however, Thrasher chose to act like a vindictive child. In response to the teen’s comment, Thrasher posted a sexually suggestive ad on Craigslist, along with the girl’s picture, phone number, email address, and place of employment. The girl subsequently received sexually charged emails, text messages, and pornography on her phone.
To say the least, Thrasher’s actions were childish and immature, but they had the potential to be much more dangerous than they turned out to be. What if a man on Craigslist had seen the ad and waited for the girl in the parking lot of her place of employment? What if the girl’s picture and information had been lifted from Craigslist and posted on pornographic websites, forever damaging her reputation?
Although there is little we can do as parents to prevent immature adults and others from posting hurtful, damaging, or dangerous information online about our children. It is important that we report this activity as soon as it happens, and teach our children to do the same. Increased reporting and education will help us all fight this problem and bring about better legislation to fight online bullies, prevent future attacks, and prosecute the offenders.
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