Friday, December 7, 2007

Online avengers perpetuate the problem | 12/06/2007 | Online avengers perpetuate the problem
An army of Internet avengers has set out to destroy Lori Drew and her family.

With ruthless efficiency, they have learned the identity of the suburban St. Louis woman whose cyberspace meddling appears to have played a role in the suicide of a 13-year-old neighbor girl.

They have published her address, phone numbers and photos, and harangued the clients of her advertising business.

The Drew family has fled its home. Their teenage daughter is living apart from her parents, for her safety. The advertising business is closed.

And still the online avengers forge on, seeking the whereabouts of Lori and Curt Drew and vowing them no peace, ever.

The irony is rich. Lori Drew’s use of the Internet to meddle in the life of another person has earned her worldwide scorn. And now a legion of strangers, under the guise of justice, is stooping to her level.

“They’ll basically end up doing the same thing to that family and their daughter that they did to Megan,” Lt. Craig McGuire of the St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department told the Riverfront Times, a weekly newspaper in St. Louis.
One can conclude from the information available that Drew, who is 48, is immature, the worst kind of helicopter parent and cowardly. Instead of owning up to the MySpace stunt, she let Megan’s parents learn about it from others.

I personally have no wish to ever meet the woman.

But who are these people who have made it their business to destroy her? They are a jury with laptops, their verdict rendered without insight into the dynamics of two families or the state of mind of a fragile 13-year-old girl or even a complete explanation of what actually occurred.

Accomplished in the art of cyberspace nastiness, they direct their fury at a family whose own foray down that road had tragic, but unintended, consequences.

The cyber jury has decided Drew caused Megan’s death, as surely as if she had fired a gun at the child. Any professional will say that’s not the case.

“One incident never causes a suicide,” said Marilyn Metzl, a Kansas City psychologist. “It’s always a series of events.”

Metzl, who works with children, adolescents and adults, sees the wreckage of cyber obsession all the time. She’s counseled teenagers who have flunked out of school because their parallel lives on the Internet have left them no time for the business of actual living. She’s seen marriages ruined by phantom cyber lovers.

“The World Wide Web is incredible, but it’s also dangerous,” Metzl said. “When you’re dealing with a fantasy life, it can be wonderful or hideous.”

Surely one of the best things parents can do to guard their children from Internet hazards is to show them, by example, how to live a life that doesn’t require tapping on a keyboard.

Be a tutor, help at a food pantry, visit an elderly neighbor. Engage in real relationships with real people. You’ll strike more of a blow for justice and leave the world a better place than all the avengers of cyberspace.

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