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Parents Could Be On the Hook for What Their Irresponsible Kid Does on Facebook

A court case in Georgia says parents can be liable for their kids Facebook behavior

(Oliver Berg/dpa/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

How much should parents be legally responsible for what their kids do on the internet? According to a recent court case in Georgia, at least a little bit, says the Wall Street Journal.

Three years ago two kids set up a Facebook page specifically designed to make fun of a classmate. They “constructed a Facebook profile pretending to be the girl... [and] used a “Fat Face” app to make her look obese and posted profane and sexually explicit comments on the page depicting her as racist and promiscuous,” says the Journal.

The girl found out, she was understandably upset, and she went to the school. The two people behind the site, Dustin Athearn and Melissa Snodgrass, were temporarily suspended.

Cut forward 11 months, says the Journal, and the cruel Facebook page was still online. The fact that the page was able to stay online for so long was, according to the court, at least party Snodgrass' and Athearn's parents' fault, says Ars Technica.

According to the Journal, this is the first time a court has put part of the blame for a cyberbullying case involving children on the parents' shoulders.

The lawyer for Athearn's parents told the Journal that they plan to appeal the ruling, but if the decision sticks it will set a precedent for parents' responsibility in their children's online lives. As if parents didn't have enough trouble already trying to get their kids to friend them back.

About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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