As a parent, should you be held responsible for what your teen posts on Facebook or Twitter? The Georgia Court of Appeals thinks so, and has ruled that the parents of a seventh grade student may be held accountable for failing to have their son remove a fake Facebook account he had created to taunt a girl in his class.
The fake profile was created for the girl and it featured posts that were racial, sexual and profane. The fake posts also claimed that she used illegal drugs. The boy’s school alerted his parents about the fake page, letting them know that their failing to do something about it could be considered negligence.
The boy’s parents apparently made no attempt to even look at the page to learn the content of what their son had posted. They chose instead to ground him for a week. The page remained intact on Facebook for eleven months until the bullied girl’s parents asked Facebook to take it down.
Still, after almost a year, the damage was done. The girl discovered the page and who was responsible for it. She told her parents; the school was informed and the boy suspended – yet the boy’s parents failed to see the harm.
Unfortunately, cyber bullying is not a rarity. A 13-year old Florida girl last year jumped to her death after having been bullied online. Although her mother closed her Facebook page and moved her to another school, it was all too much for the seventh grader who was being bullied at the hands of fifteen other teens.
The appeals court did not hold the boy’s parents responsible for allowing their son to create the fake profile; it ruled that failure to supervise the boy’s online activity after learning of the page constituted negligence. A jury could find them liable for any damages incurred by the fake profile.
We all know that the internet can be a dangerous place. Should you be held liable for what your children are posting online?