Saturday, November 24, 2007

It begins at home......

Megan Meier, 13, of Dardenne Prairie MO was described as a "bubbly, goofy" girl who loved watching movies, spending time with her friends and fishing with her dad. She thought she had found a new friend in cyberspace after a boy named Josh contacted her on MySpace and began exchanging messages with her.

They talked for more than a month before he abruptly ended their friendship by telling her that he had heard she was cruel. Megan, who is said to have suffered from depression and ADD, hanged herself the next day in her bedroom on October 16 2006 and died a day later. It wasn't until over six weeks after her death that the rest of the story was revealed.

It was a local parent who broke the news to Megan's parents in a counselor's office at that time. That parent had learned about Josh from her own daughter who had access to Josh's MySpace profile. Megan's parents found out that Josh had been made up by members of a neighborhood family that included a former friend of Megan's. Josh was a hoax and a fraud.

Megan's mother, Tina, stated that she doesn't believe that those involved meant for Megan to kill herself but she wants those who created the fraudulent profile to be prosecuted. She added that they are seeking legal changes to safeguard children on the internet as well. The case of Megan's death hasn't been closed yet but the sheriff's officials have told Tina that her case doesn't fit into any law right now.

While this case is incredible sad, it also highlights something that is becoming very prevelent today. Many of the children growing up now interact mainly through electronics, whether it be by text or the internet. By not having a real person, face-to-face to interact with, many are learning to believe much of who and what they encounter anonymously as being real.

It almost sounds like the arguments used for trying to remove "violence" from children's cartoons for fear that children would try and imitate the coyote jumping off cliffs. Many of us grew up watching that programing but we were usually monitored and almost all of us knew that it wasn't real. The best defense for the many scams online begins in the home and teaching our children that you can't be sure who you are talking to unless you see them face-to-face. There is a lot to be learned by chatting with friends world-wide online but that should be tempered by the reality that the person they are talking to, may in fact be someone very different in real life.

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