Is Facebook nudging us into a new era of parental responsibility?
The Georgia Court of Appeals recently held that the parents of a seventh-grade student could be found negligent for failing to make sure that their son deleted an offensive Facebook profile that defamed a fellow student. The fake Facebook account was created in the other student’s name and featured sexual, profane, racist postings, and implied that she was using illegal drugs.
According to court documents, the boy’s parents did not take any action requiring that their son delete the profile, even though the school alerted them that the page could constitute negligence on their part. The boy’s parents made no attempt to view the Facebook age, find out what content their son had distributed, or tell him to delete the page, instead deciding to ground him for a week and allow the page to remain on display for over 11 months. Facebook eventually took the postings down at the insistence of the bullied girl’s parents, nearly a year after the school disciplined the male student.
Not an Isolated Incident
Unfortunately, cyber bullying is far from an unusual circumstance. In September 2013, a Lakeland, Florida 12-year-old girl jumped from a cement factory tower to her death after as many as 15 girls bullied her physically and on social media. Although her mother closed her Facebook account and moved the seventh grader to another school, the cyber bullying continued for a year and a half, until the girl allegedly could take no more.
According to the Huffington Post, most parents of cyber bullies have trouble believing that their children are capable of such monstrous acts. But if parents provide access to Internet-enabled devices and allow their children to be active on social networks, shouldn’t they be held accountable for their online activities, including cyber-bullying?
The attorney who defended the boy’s parents allegedly said he knew of no other case in which parents have been found negligent for failing to monitor a child’s online activity, and vowed that he will appeal the ruling, Entrepreneur reports.