Florida case part of a bigger problem

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 10, 2008

It goes without saying that last week’s beating of a Florida cheerleader that has led to eight arrests is beyond sickening.

What’s even more troubling, however, is that you can bet episodes like this one can happen in any community, including the ones in Lawrence County.

Sheriff’s officials in Polk County said Victoria Lindsay was attacked by six teenage girls after she arrived at a friend’s home. One of the assailants slammed Lindsay’s head into a bedroom wall and knocked her unconscious. After she woke up, the girls held her down and beat her again, blocking the door as two teenage boys kept a lookout outside.

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While all of this was occurring a videotape was capturing the whole gruesome ordeal with the idea that it would later appear on a popular Web site. The mother of one of the girls charged has indicated the conflict started when Lindsay began posting threatening and insulting remarks on MySpace, the popular social networking Web site.

The eight teenagers have been charged with battery and false imprisonment, third-degree felonies. Lindsay has yet to regain full sight in her left eye and hearing in her left ear, but doctors are hopeful those will return after swelling goes down.

But what should be clear by now is that there is a plethora of unconscionable violence on the Internet that young people can easily find themselves a part of or a victim to. There is something of a debate about what sort of legal consequences there should be for those engaging in “cyberbullying.”

For sure, it is a form of terrorism and the degrees can vary. And what is also certain is that offenders — young and old alike — should be held accountable for viable threats that make others live in fear.

And for those who believe this is an isolated Florida case that could not happen here, one needs to only discuss the matter with Necco’s Ruthanne Delong.

In a story in The Ironton Tribune last fall, written by Teresa Moore, this is how Delong described the local online climate for young people:

“Cyberbullying is a big issue. We did talk about it this year and I plan to expand it next year,” she said. “MySpace is a huge problem. Every school we went to, we’d ask, ‘Do you know what MySpace is?’ and the hands would go up. And he would ask, ‘Have you seen things posted there that are not nice?’ and the hands would go up.”

Bullying is certainly nothing new. But nowadays the Internet offers a new platform for the kind of violence that can have very real consequences.

It is an issue that faces students, parents, educators and lawmakers. And that goes for right here at home.

The Internet has made the world a smaller place and has made information available in ways that could never have been imaged only a few short years ago. But without caution, it can also be dangerous as is made perfectly clear by the story of a 16-year-old Florida girl.

Rick Greene is the managing editor of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached at (740) 532-1441, ext. 12, or by e-mail at rick.greene@irontontribune.com