These days, social networking websites have become a place where people, both young and old, inflict harm on others through posting gossip and/or lies. This is a form of bullying and harassment where bullies have the convenience of hiding online.
In 2009, for example, Courtney Love paid $430,000 in libel damages for Twitter defamation as settlement with fashion designer Dawn Simorangkir, while a Chicago Illinois mother and her teenage son sued 4 other minors for setting up a fake Facebook profile and making false and defamatory statements that affected the teenager and his siblings’ education, athletic activities and social interactions.
What is Defamation?
Defamation is passing along false information that is stated as factual and is made through the forms of Slander and Libel.
Defamation can cause harm to a person or an organization; and the information, whether written or verbal, is relayed to others. As such, if your daughter’s schoolmate tells your child personally or via email that she is a cheat and a thief, then it is not defamation.
However, if the schoolmate tells others via social networking sites that your daughter is a racist and a thief, and these are not true based on facts, this is defamation. Without any evidence to back up information passed on to others, a lawsuit can be filed.
In the past, teenagers called each other names behind each other backs, but today, a teenager can tarnish the reputation of another teen by calling him names online for everyone to see and by continuing to make false accusations about him.
When it gets out of hand, it can affect a teen’s chance of getting into a good college, meet the right friends and live a normal life.
There are so many dangers online and a common danger that teenagers face today is online defamation, and they are not aware that this is punishable by law.
It is common for teenagers not to involve their parents with problems they have at school and with friends. Most of the time, parents only discover the ugly truth after things have gone too far.
This is why as parents we must try to protect our children and keep an eye on what is going on in their lives, even when online, so that we can act before serious damage is done.
Understanding the terms and conditions of a social networking website is also helpful. This allows us to become more aware of legalities involved when it comes down to taking the appropriate action. Reporting defamation and other online bullying to the social networking website may also help parents whose children are being attacked.
Other Online Dangers
Harassment and Cyber-bullying
The teen years is a sensitive stage of development for all teenagers which can make any form of cyber-bullying and harassment difficult for them. False information can be posted and threats can be made. Even adults can bully a teenager online, such as the tragic MySpace suicide case of Megan Meier in 2009.
Many teenagers these days have cell phones and teenage girls are encouraged by friends or boyfriends to take sexy pictures using their phones and are then pressured into sending the pictures. This is very risky considering that uploading images online and sharing them will be very easy as those pictures can be distributed through various websites.
The last thing you would want is to see your daughter’s half-clad image online.
Any teenager can be stalked online by an ex-boyfriend or ex- girlfriend, bullies, enemies and even pedophiles. Your child may not be aware that he is being stalked, so keeping track of your child’s online activities and posts can help you identify cyber-stalking so you can act accordingly.