Cyberbullying Girls, Helicopter
Moms, and Internet Predators
TUCKED AWAY IN A pleasant enough middle-class suburb on a street named Waterford Crystal Drive, two mothers and their daughters in Dardenne Prairie, Missouri, unwittingly became the focus of the world’s first cyberbullying court case. Wired magazine named the case one of the greatest threats to privacy and online freedoms because it attempted to utilize the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to convict forty-nine-year-old Lori Drew of violating the terms of service of MySpace by registering to communicate with others under a false identity.1 Lawyers and cyberspace pundits were especially interested in the ways in which this case has threatened to make it a felony to create and experiment with online identities. But the case has garnered far more attention—and vitriol—because of the toxic combination of teen nastiness, online social networking practices, and disturbingly inappropriate parental actions that lay at its core. It’s an unfortunate example of what can go terribly wrong, and the reach of the story demonstrates that many people have found in it a compelling, perhaps epic story both of the worst that can happen to teens online and of what it means to be a “bad” parent in the digital age.2 It also allows us to explore the various ways in which the parents of teens respond to troubling online behaviors.
It all started in 2006, when Lori Drew’s thirteen-year-old daughter Sarah complained to her mother that Megan Meier, a former friend, was bothering her. The two girls had had an on-again, off-again friendship; both had engaged in name-calling and spiteful actions. Sarah Drew wanted to learn what Megan was saying about her, so Sarah and Ashley Grills, an older teen who worked for Sarah’s mother, allegedly created a fake MySpace account. Sarah’s mother, Lori Drew, allegedly observed them. The young women gave the fake account the name and identity of a fictional sixteen-year-old boy and named him “Josh Evans.”