The MySpace Suicide and Hysteria

This is gut wrenching.  A girl with a history of depression committed suicide, apparently provoked by the comments of a neighboring family posing as a boy who had become her “online boyfriend”.

It looks like it was the whole family plus a family friend (St Charles Journal):

According to a police report filed by the woman down the block, she created the account to check to see what Megan was saying, if anything, about her daughter. According to the police report, the woman, her daughter and an 18-year-old part-time employee monitored the Josh Evans account.

Part of this doesn’t add up.  If the purpose of the account was discovery, why go to the trouble of insulting the victim?   That question worries me.  Also the family’s reaction was vile:

Outrage that the only action taken has been a complaint filed by the parents who concocted this cruel hoax against the parents of the girl who committed suicide. They filed a complaint with local police against Megan’s parents.

The reason?

After finding out who was responsible for the creation of the fictitious MySpace account that led to their daughters suicide, Megan’s parents destroyed a foosball table they had been storing for the heartless adults.

This is a dangerous news story for a few reasons.  It involves a media flash point: a child being hurt after using MySpace.  It also involves an adult bullying a child, and unsympathetic aggressors who have attacked a truly vulnerable child.  This is a situation where the parents apparently took all the appropriate steps one should take allowing a child to use the internet.  If anything, they seemed almost overly protective.

There is the existing depression part of this.  The victim could just as well have reacted to cruel comments at school as online.  But because this happened online there is a flood of anger and fear pouring out.   There are calls for a law:

“Because there is not a law that it can fit into people are saying, ‘Sorry, go change the law yourself.  Put it in Megan’s name, then maybe it won’t happen to another family.’  So I guess if that’s what we have to do that’s what we’re gonna have to do.  I will take every last breath I have to fight for Megan’s name,” Tina says.  “The law needs to be changed so it never happens to a family again.”

What new law could fix this?  Barring children from using the internet?  Barring adults from ever conversing with children online?  The mother, daughter and employee did two things wrong.  They misrepresented themselves to the victim to gain her trust, and then they used that trust to hurt her psychologically.  I wonder whether a new law, which will almost certainly target social networking sites, would do anyone any good.  Rather than feed the hysteria around the use of the internet by minors, we need to address the larger issue of bullying and mental health.  If this does go to court, outside of the obvious civil case, perhaps Katherine Norris is right, and those responsible should be hit hard with stalking charges.

What do you think?

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3 Responses

  1. What do I think?

    I think you, ffto, once again call us to our higher selves in recognizing that basic decency cannot be assured by making a law against indecency.

    Of course legislating morality is much easier than tackling the causes of immorality and Americans are prone to taking the easy way out.

    Sad story.

  2. I think that the couple that bullied the girl into suicide should have their house bugged…

    they should also lose their child… anyone who can be that cruel to a kid shouldn’t get the opportunity to raise one. they probably aren’t good parents, and the certainly aren’t good examples.

    i suppose that the first thing i suggested isn’t viable, but the second one makes sense to me to some extent. of course, i’m not there, so i don’t know if they’re otherwise decent parents… but i have no doubt that they are bad people. being cruel like that, to anyone really, is just inarguably wrong.

  3. Thanks mirth. It is a very tragic story. And legislating morality is a dangerous road to travel.

    Sally Jane,
    I think these events definitely warrant a call from social services.
    The level of cruelty displayed is absolutely wrong.

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