Fallout from Ohio rape case offers stern warning to teens, parents
Written by Kera Mashek, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) -
Two Ohio teenagers now face criminal charges after posting threatening messages on Twitter, providing a wake-up call for teens and parents about what they post online.
Messages were posted just hours after two Steubenville, Ohio, teens were found guilty in a high-profile rape case.
A 15- and 16-year-old girl tweeted threats directed at the rape victim. They're now being held in juvenile detention without bond.
Too often, teens will post things to social media thinking it's just a joke. But the reality is, a quick message on Twitter or Facebook can have serious consequences.
Joanna Seymour is the technology specialist at Waterloo Columbus High School and a mother of three. She is constantly telling students and her own kids to be careful about what they post online.
"They want to find their voice," Seymour said. "They have an authentic audience. But sometimes they don't think beyond that post -- how that's going to affect the person they're talking about or to or how it's going to affect their own future."
Seymour's son Walt is 16, and likes to use Twitter to keep up with friends. He knows a lot of what winds up on social media isn't good.
"A lot of name-calling and just inappropriate things said to other people," said Walt Seymour.
"They are so quick to post just what they want to say," Joanna Seymour added. "They think they have freedom of speech that knows no bounds.
"But what they have to realize is that their freedom of speech does not allow them to hurt someone. It does not allow them to slander, libel. It does not allow them to threaten people."
As the Ohio case shows, online threats can have serious consequences.
Joanna Seymour and her husband hope other families will take time to talk to their kids about what they're posting online.
In their household, if they want to see their kids' Twitter and Facebook posts, they can. If their kids say no, they lose access to the web and their mobile devices.
The Steubenville, Ohio, teens are being charged with felony witness intimidation, along with misdemeanor menacing and harassment. If found guilty, they could be held in juvenile detention until they turn 21.
Walt Seymour was shocked to hear criminal charges are being filed for what two teens tweeted, and for him, it's a reminder to think twice before every online post.
"It should be a wake-up call," he said. "It's very important how you treat others, especially online where anyone can see it and anyone can view you. So you should just watch what you say."
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