Teen Insult Web Site Shut Down

Filed under: In The News

Cyber bullies get the boot in Maryland. Image: Michal Zacharzewski/sxc.hu

While there are plenty of online destinations for students looking to cyber-bully a classmate, one site in particular seems to have been created for that purpose alone. People's Dirt is essentially a collection of message boards specific to schools across the country where users can anonymously post whatever they want about whomever they want.

But the nationwide site, which is based in Maryland, came under fire recently after a victim spoke up about the emotional impact of this type of peer-bashing. High schooler Alexis Shrank says she was devastated when she discovered that she had become the object of anonymous bashing on the site. "I started crying because it really did upset me at first. I really just felt like someone had punched me in the face. They said so many mean things. I didn't see any reason for it. I wasn't sure what I did. I didn't know who it was either. I had never been on that website before."

Shrank isn't the the only who has a problem with the site. The Maryland attorney general's office has managed to shut it down several times over the past five months for violations including luring advertisers with false claims and other unspecified criminal practices.

Despite all that, it keeps coming back. But last week, the site came under fire again after a former student used it to post a threat to kill students and staff at Whitman High School in Bethesda. The 17-year-old former student was arrested and the site's host, GoDaddy.com, finally pulled the plug on People's Dirt.

"The website was home to abusive, harmful and embarrassing attacks on kids. It is my hope that we have seen the last of this vicious website," Attorney General Doug Gansler said in a statement.

It used to be that in order to anonymously trash-talk a classmate, students had to break out the permanent marker and deface the walls of the school bathroom. While I am sure seeing your name on the bathroom wall is hurtful, it surely cannot compare to the pain of being insulted in an online forum for all the world to see. I am glad the site was shut down and hope it stays that way. But I fear it is just a matter of time before another one takes its place.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.