Do You Know What Your Kids Are Doing on Facebook?
What if your kid posted something mean or defamatory about another kid on Facebook and months later you were sued over it and held responsible for your child’s actions? That issue was at the heart of a recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision.
The case involved a young boy in middle school who created a fake Facebook profile about a female classmate and then posted comments that made her appear racist and promiscuous. The girl’s parents took the issue to school officials. The boy was punished but because his parents weren’t very familiar with Facebook, no one took the page down and it stayed up for eleven months. School confidentiality concerns kept the girl’s parents from knowing who the boy was. Facebook eventually took the page down when finally notified by the girl’s parents.
What the court said was that the boy’s parents “were negligent in failing to compel their son to remove the Facebook page once they were notified of its existence.” The court did not hold the parents responsible for the posting itself.
But what precedent does this ruling now set for future social media cases? How far should the law go in holding parents’ responsible for their children’s actions? Does it place too much burden on parents to define what is defamatory? Or is the court stepping over a line that violates our First Amendment right to free speech?
Lawyers agree on one thing: it’s a decision that marks a legal precedent on the issue of parental responsibility over their kids’ social media activity.
Listen to lawyers discuss the case with Bobbie: