Cyberbullying and free speech

Legislation proposed around the US after the tragic case of a Missouri teen's suicide following cyberbullying is fuel for an important discussion about whether such laws are needed. "Officials from Megan [Meier]’s town of Dardenne Prairie wasted no time unanimously passing a statute that makes Internet harassment a local misdemeanor," writes co-director Larry Magid in a commentary at "Others have called for state and federal legislation to make it a crime to post comments anonymously or under an assumed identity." Larry points to the unintended consequences of overreaching laws drafted in reaction to an extremely rare occurrence. What is not rare – and in fact affects millions of young people – is online bullying by peers. Dealing with age-old social problem that is now common online and – overseas and increasingly in the US on mobile phones – is going to take a great deal of education and rational, not reactive, discussion in schools, homes, legislatures, and the media. Previous NetFamilyNews coverage of the Meier case can be found here and here.

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