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Parents May Be Held Accountable for Kids' Facebook Activity, Court Rules

Are parents legally responsible for their children's actions on social media? In a move that could set a precedent on the issue, a Georgia Court of Appeals ruled last week that the parents of a seventh grade student may be held liable for failing to get their son to delete a fake Facebook profile he'd created for a girl in his class, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The lawsuit stems from an incident in 2011 in which the boy created a fake profile for the girl, filling it with explicit images and comments that expressed racist and graphically sexual viewpoints and implied she was taking illegal drugs, according to court documents.

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When the girl discovered the profile and who was behind it, she told her parents; the school was informed, and the boy was suspended for two days. According to court documents, the boy's parents grounded him for one week. They did not, however, ensure that he deleted the fake profile, and it remained accessible online for 11 additional months (in fact, Facebook records show that the account continued to 'friend' other profiles, and accept friend requests).

While the appeals court refused to hold the boy's parents responsible for allowing their son to create the profile in the first place, it ruled that their failure to supervise their child's online activity after the fact constituted negligence, and as such, a jury may find them liable for damages incurred by the fake profile.

The litigator who defended the boy's parents told the Journal that he did not know of any other case in which parents were found negligent for failing to monitor their child's online activity, and said he plans to appeal the ruling.

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