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.*Social netwoking sites have been criticized for this incident and other incidents that include online bullying and reputation defamation, often by other children. How much responsibility do you feel these social networking sites have in these incidents? How much responsibility do parents have (the parents of the victims and the parents of the perpetrators). Should social networking sites be held criminally libel for these types of incidents? What can be done to prevent these types of incidents? In Megan’s case, do you feel criminal charges are warranted against the neighbor who pretended to be Josh? What laws do you feel might apply?
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