Adult Cyberbullying

Sadly, cyberbullying is not limited to teenagers. “From online vigilantism and angry blogs to e-stalking and anonymous ranting on newspaper Web sites, grownups can be as abusive as the meanest schoolhouse tyrant.”12

Yes, adults engage in cyberbullying behaviors, most commonly using all the tricks we’ve outlined above in order to harass or otherwise perpetrate misery on others. In some cases, adults have also been involved in cyberbullying teenagers. These cases are very disturbing, in part because in a battle of wits the average teenager is at a significant disadvantage when dealing online with an average adult.

Perhaps the most well-known and disturbing story involves a young girl from Missouri named Megan Meier from Missouri who committed suicide after being cyberbullied by an adult woman posing as teenage boy.

The suicide of 13-year-old Megan Meier in 2006 thrust adult cyberbullying into the open. The Dardenne Prairie, Mo., girl killed herself after receiving cruel messages on MySpace from imposters posing as a 16-year-old boy named “Josh Evans.” Lori Drew, the mother of one of Megan’s friends, was accused of participating in the hoax along with her teenage daughter and a former teenage employee.13


In an ironic twist, when the identity of Lori Drew became known, individuals from around the world took various forms of vigilante justice into their own hands and cyberbullied her relentlessly. Cyberbullying as a retaliation for cyberbullying is all too common, and in this case the response was intense and occasionally violent.

In another story from Missouri, Elizabeth Thrasher has the dubious honor of being the first person charged with the felony of cyberbullying under a new Missouri state law.

Thrasher is accused of posting a photo of a teenage girl, along with personal information about her, in the “Casual Encounters” section of Craigslist. Prosecutors in the case said that the 40-year-old Thrasher posted the girl’s picture, e-mail address, and cell phone number on the site, which is geared toward people interested in quick sexual encounters. … The 17-year-old girl, who has not been named, reportedly received e-mails, text messages, and cell phone calls from strange men, forcing her to call the police. The incident isn’t random–the alleged victim is the daughter of Thrasher’s ex-husband’s girlfriend … Thrasher and the teen’s mother had been arguing, prompting the girl to send a MySpace message to Thrasher telling her to grow up. The situation then escalated when Thrasher created a listing for the teen on the Craigslist adult site.14


While adults harassing teenagers feels particularly heinous, adults cyberbullying other adults is no less problematic and dangerous. In particular, cyberstalking has become a dangerous variant of cyberbullying, referring specifically to stalking situations enabled by online communication systems.

12 Thomas J. Billitteri, “Cyberbullying,” The CQ Researcher 18, no. 17 (2008).
13 Ibid.
14 Lance Whitney, “Missouri Woman Charged with Cyberbullying,” CNET News (Aug. 19, 2009), accessed Dec. 14, 2013.


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