There is so much wrong with this story, I hardly know where to begin. I guess I’ll start with a brief synopsis:
Megan Meier thought she had made a new friend in cyberspace when a cute teenage boy named Josh contacted her on MySpace and began exchanging messages with her.
Megan, a 13-year-old who suffered from depression and attention deficit disorder, corresponded with Josh for more than a month before he abruptly ended their friendship, telling her he had heard she was cruel.
The next day Megan committed suicide. Her family learned later that Josh never actually existed; he was created by members of a neighborhood family that included a former friend of Megan’s.
Now Megan’s parents hope the people who made the fraudulent profile on the social networking Web site will be prosecuted, and they are seeking legal changes to safeguard children on the Internet.
At first glance I figured this was one of your standard first amendment issues, where something horribly tragic happens and a grieving mother figures censoring the Internet is the best way to stop this from happening in the future. The canned response is that there is nothing special about the Internet that allows this to happen. People can succumb to hoaxes, teasing, and bullying through all communications mediums and I’m sure this isn’t the first girl in recorded history to kill herself over a broken heart (real or imagined). So censoring the Internet wouldn’t stop tragedies like this from happening in the future and would restrict the safe, lawful use of the Internet by the vast majority of users.
But that is such an expected response I get bored in saying it and probably wouldn’t bother to write up a blog entry for a matter that obvious. Then I read on.
Megan’s parents said she received a message from him on Oct. 15 of last year, essentially saying he didn’t want to be her friend anymore, that he had heard she wasn’t nice to her friends.
The next day, as Megan’s mother headed out the door to take another daughter to the orthodontist, she knew Megan was upset about Internet messages. She asked Megan to log off. Users on MySpace must be at least 14, though Megan was not when she opened her account. A MySpace spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment.
Someone using Josh’s account was sending cruel messages. Then, Megan called her mother, saying electronic bulletins were being posted about her, saying things like, “Megan Meier is a slut. Megan Meier is fat.”
Megan’s mother, who monitored her daughter’s online communications, returned home and said she was shocked at the vulgar language her own daughter was sending. She told her daughter how upset she was about it.
Megan ran upstairs, and her father, Ron, tried to tell her everything would be fine. About 20 minutes later, she was found in her bedroom. She died the next day.
Whoa. First of all, as established earlier in the article Megan had struggled with depression and was on medication. So now, she is extremely upset over things being said about her online, and calls her mother for support, help, and comfort, but instead of providing that her mother yells at her for using inappropriate language? What the hell is wrong with this mother? I wish I was more shocked than I am, but I can picture this reaction from quite a lot of parents out there.
If she cares about her daughter’s well-being, why wouldn’t she seek to comfort her when she is going through this kind of turmoil? Especially when she has a history of depression. If the girl was feeling alone, depressed and had a poor image of herself (because of the things “Josh” was saying) yelling at her and making her feel worse about herself is the single dumbest response I can think of. Especially if she is turning to you for support and comfort.
Then Megan turns to her father for help, and while the article doesn’t go into it too much (no doubt the father isn’t going to admit to the entirety of what he said to his daughter), it sounds like he was dismissive of her. She hung herself less than 20 minutes later. I haven’t heard of a clearer cry for help and a clearer failure to provide that help to someone who is hurting. 20 minutes later. She went to her mom and got yelled at, she went to her dad and got dismissed, and then immediately went to kill herself. Fucking hell, this isn’t the fault of MySpace or of the Internet, if you are going to charge someone, charge her parents for neglect. I’m appalled.
Furthermore, if the mother monitors her daughter’s online communications, she should have known how seriously Megan regarded this “Josh” character and would have understood her devastation at having him turn on her like that. The reason parents give to spy on their kids’ online activity is to protect them. What on earth are you protecting your daughter from if you don’t spot something like this? While I certainly don’t support monitoring anyone’s online activity, this was clearly a case where doing so could have helped save a life. But her mother failed at that too. I guess all she cared about was whether her daughter was using bad language. Great job mom, way to look out for your daughter. Once again, an over-protective parent fails utterly at protecting kids from true dangers and just causes grief over insignificant things like language.
But wait, this story gets more horrific:
Her father said he found a message the next day from Josh, which he said law enforcement authorities have not been able to retrieve. It told the girl she was a bad person and the world would be better without her, he has said.
Another parent, who learned of the MySpace account from her own daughter who had access to the Josh profile, told Megan’s parents about the hoax in a counselor’s office about six weeks after Megan died.
That’s when they learned Josh was imaginary, they said.
The woman who created the fake profile has not been charged with a crime. She allegedly told the St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department she created Josh’s profile because she wanted to gain Megan’s confidence to know what Megan was saying about her own child online.
The mother from down the street told police that she, her daughter and another person all typed and monitored the communication between the fictitious boy and Megan.
Whoa again. This “Josh” who drove this poor girl to suicide was entirely made up. And made up by… (wait for it)….. an over-protective parent seeking to “protect” her daughter from the dangers of the Internet.
Let that sink in.
So two 13-year-old girls were being… 13-year-old girls and got into a bit of a spat. Instead of just letting them resolve things on their own, or handling things like adults the mother decides to be sneaky and spy not just on her own daughter, but the neighbor’s daughter as well.
I’m near speechless.
So either the mother learned all she needed to, and gathered all the dirt she wanted to on Megan, and decided to end it abruptly (and hurtfully) or the daughter, having this perfect window of opportunity presented to her by her mother decided to exact her revenge by hurting Megan by breaking off the imaginary relationship. Even if this hadn’t resulted in suicide, manipulating the emotions of Megan like this was such a cruel thing to do. More proof that catty, cruel, manipulative 13-year-old girls grow up to be catty, cruel, manipulative mothers. Or maybe it could be better said that catty, cruel, manipulative mothers raise their daughters to be catty, cruel, manipulative 13-year-olds.
Of course, catty, cruel, manipulative people of all ages (and genders) existed long before the Internet or MySpace. These two girls lived down the street from each other, so this was a real life feud that was just continued online. Nothing special about the Internet created or fostered this messed up situation. The one thing that did make the situation worse were two cruel, over-protective mothers.
Parents: leave your kids alone. Unless they come to you for help, then fucking help them, don’t yell at them. Both sets of parents should be brought up on charges and blamed for this tragedy. Not the fucking Internet.
Katrina is exactly right, people seek to protect youth for their own good, but it only exposes them to more danger. Instead of creating a fake profile to manipulate and spy on Megan, the other girl’s mom should have given her daughter some advice for dealing with the feud in a mature, reasonable way. Ya know, helped her by better preparing her to handle situations like this herself.
Instead she decided to set an excellent example for her daughter by being a catty, cruel, manipulative bitch and now we have one dead 13-year-old victim to show for it.
Oh, wow. Excellent entry there. A lot of that I hadn’t even thought of. That poor girl.
Seconded. You bring up several interesting points that are easy to overlook. It’s easy to just assign blame to assholism in general, but ageist over-protectiveness is indeed a factor.