MySpace—A Place for Pedophiles and Vindictive Mothers Alike


MySpace plans to not only work to remove sex offenders from the Web site, but also to limit the abuse and inappropriate content on the Web site. (Rebecca Johnson/The Observer)

Published: January 31, 2008

Today, it seems as though our only worry and fear regarding MySpace is that pedophiles are lurking in the shadows of cyberspace. But recently, it has been revealed that there are others who have false intentions while prowling around on MySpace; in fact, they may just be your next-door neighbors.

Thirteen-year-old Megan Meier thought she had found a new friend, a cute boy named Josh, on the MySpace Web site. But after a month of friendly chatting, he told her suddenly that she was cruel; he didn’t want to be her friend anymore.

Megan, who had been clinically depressed and on medication for Attention Deficit Disorder, committed suicide the day after Josh ended their friendship.  Twenty minutes before Megan hung herself in her bedroom, she sobbed hysterically to her parents over MySpace messages that called her fat, accused her of being a slut and, finally, claimed that the world would be better off without her.

Six weeks after Megan’s death, her family learned that Josh was made up.  The woman behind Josh’s cute profile was Megan’s neighbor from down the street, the mother of Megan’s ex-friend. She claimed that she was simply looking to see what Megan was saying about her own teenage daughter, and that the conversations were harmlessly inspired.

Megan’s family has been deteriorating slowly; her parents are now separated. But the woman and the other adults who helped create a fictitious identity to fool this young girl have not even been charged with any sort of crime. Megan’s parents don’t see how an adult is capable of creating a false person, tricking a child, and walking away from the amusing chat. I don’t understand it either.

It’s hard to see the difference between an older male targeting minors online and an adult woman targeting one specific child, especially when the effect is so tragic. They are both incredibly inappropriate situations, no matter the reason for the initial “hello.”

True, our parents are curious about what we’re up to, especially at the crucial age of 13, but to vindictively lie to a minor for their own selfish satisfaction is wrong.  Whether it is a perverted adult or a worried mother using the fraudulent profile to mislead the minor, they both take advantage of an unknowing child.  It’s clear that in this case, the mother and any other adults involved should be prosecuted.

Still, the prosecution of every participant in this particular scam is an unrealistic thought; the initial, angry thought one might have that “the entire family must suffer!” isn’t reasonable. The woman’s daughter, also involved in the conversations that took place, is a minor herself and it seems implausible (and unreasonable) that she be faced with penalties. Children can be cruel; we’ve all been there.  She, in particular, seems to be learning from the worst.

Unfortunately, the law might never be able to control interactions that happen between adults via the Internet. Yet, some cases show that sometimes justice is achieved when necessary. In 2004, Robert Murphy, 38, of South Carolina, was sentenced to five years of probation, 500 hours of community service and more than $12,000 in restitution for two counts of using the Internet with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass. He was thoroughly punished for sending harassing emails to a woman he claimed he had a romantic relationship with.

Clearly, the adults involved in the Meier con should receive an equal amount (if not more) of punishment than Murphy. They should be faced with the penalty they deserve for their careless and detrimental actions.

Finally, over two years since Megan’s death, we can hear the hopeful effects of this tragedy. A Fox News article released early last month stated that U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, during the national conference of law enforcement officials in St. Louis, swore to maintain the pressure against online predators who target children.  MySpace spokespeople have announced new policies of the Web site, hoping to make it safer by removing sex offenders from its online community and working with law enforcement to take instant action when discovering abusive or inappropriate content.

I hope they not only rule out the attempts of sex offenders to connect with victims, but also any other communication between adult and child. MySpace should use the Josh impersonation as the disastrous example.

While it’s irrational to place the blame of Megan’s death solely on her neighbors, the adults’ immoral doings shouldn’t be disregarded.   They set out to hurt a child, ultimately causing a great, great deal of hurt, and it’s only fair that they hurt a bit, too.