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HI all,

There are many aspects of the Megan Meier's case that provide an excellent
"teachable moment" on a variety of issues related to Internet safety. The
most extensive coverage I have found of the incident itself is on the Wired

Here are some of the issues I would suggest discussing:

Megan was reportedly bullying Sara and the profile was created in an attempt
to get evidence of this - and likely also for retaliation. Young people who
are victims of bullying are retaliating online. Young people should not
engaging in bullying and not seek to use the Internet for retaliation.

Megan was allowed to establish a friendship link with someone who was not
known in person by her or her friends. Especially when starting on a social
networking site, teens should link only to friends. Later, they may expand
to acquaintances or friends of friends - someone known in person by a person
they know. This way they know that no false persona has been established.
When they are much older, perhaps strangers.

Whenever they establish a friendship link - especially to someone they do
not know well - they should take the time to carefully review the person's
profile to see if anything posted causes concerns. What does this person's
friends look like? What images has this person posted? How does this person
communicate in public and private? And how does all of this reflect on this
person's values? They might also want to keep in mind that others will be
judging them based on their friends, images, and communications.

They must be very alert to signs that someone is trying to manipulate them.
The key signs of this are overly friendly messages, including comments like,
"wow you're hot," "I am really glad I met you" and the like.

They also should be very careful if anyone appears to be trying to establish
a special relationship - when there is really no "real world" basis for that

Teens are going through a very vulnerable time and really want to find
acceptance. So they are vulnerable to "fantasy online love." They send
messages back and forth indicating how much they love the other person -
just because they want to receive these same messages and it is fn to think
you have this great love relationship - just like in the movies. They need
to understand how to distinguish between "fantasy online love" and real
relationships that are healthy and viable.

If someone starts to communicate in a hurtful manner, the appropriate
response is to leave the site, end the communications, and/or block the
person. Filing a complaint may also be an option. If someone makes you mad
online, keep your hands off the keyboard - because you will just make things

I hope this helps your students. I am working on a strategy to set up a site
that will have these news-related "teachable moments" - both in a timely
manner and in an archive.

Nancy Willard, M.S., J.D.
Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use

Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats: Responding to the Challenge of Online Social
Aggression, Threats, and Distress (Research Press)

Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens: Helping Young People Learn to Use the
Internet Safely and Responsibly (Jossey-Bass)

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