Facebook has 1.23 billion monthly users. From among these users, 7.5 million are children. To many children, Facebook is a medium to share their thoughts and photos without oversight or restraint from their parents. In fact, in their use of Facebook, many children even refuse to be “friends” with their parents. But for how long will this unbridled freedom continue? In the recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision, Boston v. Athearn., the court held that parents may be liable for what their children post to Facebook.

In Boston v. Athearn, defendant minor—posing as plaintiff minor—created a fictional Facebook page. Defendant used a photo of plaintiff that defendant had distorted using the “Fat Face” application as the profile picture for the page. Additionally, defendant posted racist viewpoints and a homosexual orientation on the false profile. Defendant subsequently friended over seventy of plaintiff’s classmates, teachers, and family members. While defendant was reprimanded by the school and grounded by his parents, he never took the false profile down. The account was finally deactivated by Facebook more than a year after its inception.

Plaintiff, by and through her parents, argued that defendant’s parents were negligent in failing to compel their son to remove the Facebook page once they were notified of its existence. Interestingly, the Georgia Court of Appeals agreed. The court reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment finding that a reasonable jury could find defendant parents failed to exercise due care in supervising and controlling their son’s behavior. Of course, the defendant’s attorney has already stated that he would appeal the ruling to the Georgia Supreme Court.

What will the Georgia Supreme Court decide? Should parents be liable for what their seventh graders post on Facebook? If so, what effects will this have on the social media craze? What other social mediums will be affected? Instagram? Twitter?

 

Robyn Taylor

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