The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Editorials

March 21, 2013

Beyond belief

Social media has seemingly consumed the general public.

Sometimes beyond belief.

Most times it’s as harmless as reading a stunning announcement moments after  someone feels the need to update everyone on their status — as they’re washing their car or eating a ham sandwich.

But sometimes, sadly, it goes much further into a realm of bullying and even criminal behavior.

Unfortunately, many users of the relatively new phenomenon of social media do not think before they post or tweet.

This week, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine demanded an end to threatening postings on Twitter aimed at a girl who was raped by two high school football players.

The girl essentially became a victim once again.

Two of her peers, ages 15 and 16, were accused of posting threatening tweets Sunday following the conviction and sentencing of two Ohio boys for raping the 16-year-old West Virginia girl after a party.

They are charged with intimidation of a victim, telecommunications harassment and aggravated menacing.

“What’s sad particularly to me is that the victim has had to go through the rape, the aftermath of the rape, the trial, and she continues to be victimized on the social media,” DeWine pointed out.

This should serve as a stark reminder for kids that they can’t use Facebook, Twitter and other social media to bully and threaten.

Lots of kids, and even some adults, think that what they do on social media outlets is above the law and they can’t be held responsible for anything they post.

They are wrong.

This event should send the message that the authorities can — and will — take action if postings get out of line.

We’re glad that law enforcement and the Ohio Attorney General jumped on this and we hope it happens more when people, including juveniles, step over the line.

“People have the right to express their point of view, and they have the right to be stupid, and they have the right to be wrong, but they don’t have the right under Ohio law to threaten to kill someone,” DeWine added.

Cyber bullying and responsible use of social media are new items for parents, school officials and the general public to be concerned about.

While the world has seemingly gotten a lot smaller while information blazes along at lightning speed via the Internet, we must find ways to effectively communicate and use technology to benefit our homes — not harm others.

As we push the “post” or “tweet” button and broadcast our thoughts to potentially thousands, if not millions readers, take time to think about the ramifications of that post. Some social media experts even suggest to “never post emotionally.”

We must make the parameters clear and monitor use for individuals under our care.

We encourage everyone to take this opportunity to have a frank talk with their children or grandchild about responsible social media use.

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