Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Terrible Fallout from Teenage Cruelty

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Terrible Fallout from Teenage Cruelty

Article excerpt

Here in Missouri, we are consumed with the Maryville teen sex case.

In that small city, charges against two high school athletes following a teen sex incident touched off a barrage of hatred - directed at the then-14-year-old victim and her family. Daisy Coleman's mother lost her job as a veterinarian. Her family had to leave town. Daisy's high school years have been lost to therapy, cutting episodes and suicide attempts.

Another bullying episode rose to prominence in the news last week. In Florida, the Polk County sheriff arrested two teenage girls. They are accused of tormenting a seventh-grader for a year before the girl, Rebecca Ann Sedwick, jumped to her death from an abandoned cement silo.

If Sheriff Grady Judd is right, the online invective didn't end with Rebecca's death. At a news conference, he said he arrested the girls after one of them announced on her Facebook page that, "Yes, I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself but IDGAF." In cyber shorthand, that would be "I don't give a . . . ." You can fill in the blank.

The girl's parents insist a hacker wrote the comment. The sheriff says he's certain the girl is responsible, and she has left a long trail of Internet harassment.

A disturbing coda to the Florida story: When news stations aired a photo of the accused girl's Facebook page, the cold-blooded comment had elicited 31 "likes."

These are extreme cases. Much more common, thankfully, are stories of teenagers who volunteer, do good things and stand up for each other. And a certain percentage of kids have always been mean. We just didn't hear about it so much before the Internet took bullying to a new level.

But still. Reports like these are enough to chill a parent's blood.

In the Maryville case, one detail that has been reported is especially shocking to me.

It's not that a group of high school boys were accused of inviting two younger girls to party, getting one of them plastered with hard liquor, and that sexual intercourse allegedly took place. …

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