Cyberfeud Turns Deadly: Info for Parents

Teen Love Triangle
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Sarah Ludemann and Rachel Wade had many things in common, including the same boyfriend, Joshua Camacho.

The two Florida teens learned of each other through MySpace, and then used the Web as a place to taunt and attack each other with cruel words and photos. As Camacho continued to date both of them, the animosity between the two girls escalated, creating a volatile mix of teenage passion and angst.

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It all came to a head on a fateful night in April 2009. When the teens confronted each other face to face, words turned into blows, and tragically ended in Sarah Ludemann's death.

Girl Feuds: More Info

Gender is very important when it comes to violence, particularly homicide, according to University of Southern Florida criminology professor Kathleen Heide.

"Girls and adult women [are] much more likely to be involved in violence and in homicide, in terms of relationships -- boyfriends, family, friends," said Heide. "You don't typically see girls involved in robbery, homicides, unless they've hooked up with a boy or a man."

Teen violence experts say the Internet and other social technology like text messaging have added fuel to the fire when it comes to girl-on-girl aggression and violence.

To start, girls are more likely to post online videos and personal information than boys, and feuds online more often become emotionally charged.

The "effect of the technology is people will say things on texting, they'll say it on e-mail, they would never say face to face, because it's just very easy to hurl some insult because the person's not in front of you," Heide said.

Bolder insults, curses and death threats, she said, are more common in cyberspace. And since altercations are no longer limited to school hallways, teens don't have a chance to cool off.

"When they're nineteen, eighteen, their ability to regulate strong feelings is not what it is for an adult. ...It's like they can't put the brakes on," Heide said.

In the case of Wade and Ludemann, the exchange of vicious text and voice messages amped them up emotionally, Heide said, so when the teens came face to face, Wade's rage spiraled out of control and ended in tragedy.

How to Reduce Cyberbullying Threats

Internet safety expert Parry Aftab provided the following tips to stay safe online.

If You Are Attacked Online:

Stop, Block and Tell! -- Stop and don't reply, block the person or message and tell someone you trust to help you keep things in perspective.
Take 5! -- If someone upsets you online, don't let them see you sweat. It only feeds the bullying. Do something you love to help you regain composure and balance. Disengage from the technology.
Pick you battles -- Know when to alert authorities and when to brush it off. Physical threats should always be reported to the police.

To Prevent Attacks Online

ThinkB4uClick -- Read over what you are posting or sending before you click send. Is it confusing, disrespectful, rude, mean, sent to the right person and is it complete? Did you leave out an important word?
The Iinternet golden rule -- treat others the way you want to be treated.
Don't share information that can be used as a weapon against you and use privacy settings to protect yourself and your info.
Use comment moderation settings, so nasty messages don't go live on your profile or blog unless you approve them.

For Parents

What should parents do to help prevent cyberbulling? RespectU.com has a full guide for parents, including a list of questions parents should ask to stay on top of their kids online. Click here.

Does your teen or tween speak in a text language that you can't crack? Click here for ways to decode slang your teen uses online.

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