One way to solve bullying

photo by dbking

Here’s one approach to the issue of digital citizenship and cyber bullying:

A teenager in Georgia has decided to take things into her own hands after her school and police said they could do nothing about the classmates bullying her on Facebook.

Fourteen-year-old Alex Boston and her parents are filing suit against two classmates and their parents for libel after the two classmates allegedly created a fake Facebook account in her name, using a photo of her that they distorted. The account was also used to post a racist video to YouTube that implied that Boston hated African-Americans, and to leave crude comments on the Facebook pages of other friends, suggesting she was sexually active and smoked marijuana.

My first instinct is that this is a typical misuse of the US legal system: suing someone over a personal disagreement. Couldn’t the situation be dealt with through a conversation, a sit-down between the aggrieved parties? Boston and her parents pursued several avenues of recourse: contacting school officials, the police, and Facebook. But nowhere is it indicated that they tried to contact the bullies and their parents directly to address the situation. This demonstrates why a lawsuit is an excessive response: simple personal contact wasn’t attempted.

On the other hand, online bullying takes a schoolyard activity and puts it into the context of the real world, where we might call it libel or harassment. Even if the suit doesn’t go to trial, might this be the smack across the head that the bullies need?