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Family Sues MySpace For Their Role in Teen's Suicide

Family Sues MySpace For Their Role in Teen's Suicide

When 15-year-old Kristin Helms committed suicide in 2006, she blamed Kiley Bowers, the 27-year-old man who traveled across state lines to meet her. Her parents blame MySpace — in fact, they're suing the Internet site for their role in the tragedy.

Though Helms and Bowers didn't meet on MySpace, they did use it to communicate, and Helms's parents called for the policing of sites for sexual predators last Summer. Now, they're taking MySpace on in court.

To learn more about this case as well as another MySpace tragedy,


While Kiley Bowers is serving a nine-year federal prison term in Texas for traveling across state lines to have sex with a minor and transporting child pornography, it's clear that Helms's family needs more — that is, closure in the form of making the Internet safe for minors. I can't help but be reminded of the awful story of Megan Meier, who was taunted by a peer's parent with a fake MySpace profile.

How much responsibility do you think a social networking site should take, both in the event of a tragedy where it's a major player and on a level of prevention?


Join The Conversation
glamourette142 glamourette142 8 years
Matdredalia, well said
stayplus stayplus 9 years
It is so disheartening to see that this girl's parents have learned nothing from her tragic death. Instead of reflecting on their own parenting skills or lack thereof, they foolishly shifted the blame onto MySpace. Their expectation of an online social network to take responsibilty and protect their child rather than doing it themselves, is completely incomprehensible to me. Some people should have never had children in the first place.
Matdredalia Matdredalia 9 years
Having counseled teenagers for years, and having been suicidal myself, I find it rather peculiar that this girl actually pointed out a single person as being to blame for her suicide. It sounds to me like her parents are pointing fingers, not her. But regardless... How does this come down to being MySpace's fault? I'm sorry, but if your 15 year old daughter was sexually assaulted in some way or another by some 27 year old who she met on the internet, it is because YOU were not paying attention to what she was doing, not because a website exists and simply does not have the resources to patrol it's memberships every waking move. Personally, I would be willing to lay down money that this kid had problems at home long before she met the 27 y/o guy. And even more importantly, and the thing that pisses me off the most, is whenever you see a case like this, there is always some pissed off parent wanting to sue some mega company that has become a pop culture phenomena. It happened with the mother who wanted to sue EverQuest (think World of WarCraft for the 1999-2004 years) for her sons suicide, or suing World of WarCraft because their child is "addicted", or, you know, the multiple people who've tried to sue MySpace. Seriously, whatever happened to being a real parent, and when something goes wrong in your kids life, accepting that you should have been more responsible for your child or accepting that sometimes, life just sucks. Money won't bring your kid back, nor will getting your name in the papers. These people seriously need to grow up, it's no wonder their kids are suicidal.
CoMMember13631160129055 CoMMember13631160129055 9 years
This country has become one where too many people feel everyone else is to blame. Whatever happened to personal responsibility?
Meike Meike 9 years
Such is always the case, bad parents always need to blame something else for their failures at parenting. It never changes.
chakra_healer chakra_healer 9 years
Dootsie, You make a good point, computers and television are the babysitters of modern children. This is what occupies their time and provides most social interaction. Sad.
chakra_healer chakra_healer 9 years
ITA, with laura. Parents are responsible for monitoring their children, not third parties. A family member and her husband both have locked laptops with only one computer in the house available to the kids. The computer is located in the living room and the kids can only use it when the parents are in the room, because it is also has a password, and only for an hour. Also, all of the kids personal sites, myspace and some other one, are monitored by the parents and all chat transcripts read by them. The kids also do not have their own tv, phones, or cells. I though this was extreme before, but now I know it is just what we used to refer to as parenting. I am sorry the girl is dead, but if a parent does not know what their 15 year old daughter is doing, they are not parenting effectively.
Merlin713 Merlin713 9 years
Parents need to get into their children's business, and quit acting like they want to be their friends. You must parent first, and be their friend later; more like when they are out of the house and are well on their way to their own lives. Myspace has this little section of their site which is called their "Terms & Conditions" that you should read before signing up and/or filing a lawsuit. If you want to read it yourself, here's the link: Here are two snippets of their terms: Member Disputes. You are solely responsible for your interactions with other MySpace Members. MySpace reserves the right, but has no obligation, to become involved in any way with disputes between you and other Members. Disputes. The Agreement shall be governed by, and construed in accordance with, the laws of the State of New York, without regard to its conflict of law provisions. You and MySpace agree to submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts located within the State of New York to resolve any dispute arising out of the Agreement or the MySpace Services. EACH OF THE PARTIES HEREBY KNOWINGLY, VOLUNTARILY AND INTENTIONALLY WAIVES ANY RIGHT IT MAY HAVE TO A TRIAL BY JURY IN RESPECT OF ANY LITIGATION (INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO ANY CLAIMS, COUNTERCLAIMS, CROSS-CLAIMS, OR THIRD PARTY CLAIMS) ARISING OUT OF, UNDER OR IN CONNECTION WITH THIS AGREEMENT. FURTHER, EACH PARTY HERETO CERTIFIES THAT NO REPRESENTATIVE OR AGENT OF EITHER PARTY HAS REPRESENTED, EXPRESSLY OR OTHERWISE, THAT SUCH PARTY WOULD NOT IN THE EVENT OF SUCH LITIGATION, SEEK TO ENFORCE THIS WAIVER OF RIGHT TO JURY TRIAL PROVISION. EACH OF THE PARTIES ACKNOWLEDGES THAT THIS SECTION IS A MATERIAL INDUCEMENT FOR THE OTHER PARTY ENTERING INTO THIS AGREEMENT. Usually, a contract is not really a valid one if you are asked to waive your right to any litigation against someone for something serious. It is not valid if you are asked to waive your rights to anything that you are allowed to do by law. I do think that some or even most of the parts of their contract with those who sign up is valid, but not the whole thing. However, by signing up for a Myspace, you do agree to the terms they have presented, whether or not you have read or understood them at all. This applies to adults, those who are over the age of 18, only. Also, adults are held as the responsible party when entering into a contract with a minor. Upon turning 18, one has the choice to whether they would like to be bound by the terms of the contract they entered into as a minor(they do this by acting in a way that is in compliance with the contract), and they also have a choice to whether they do not want to be bound by the terms of the contract(they do this by disaffirming the contract, or acting in a way that is not within the terms of the contract, or literally telling those they are in the contract with that they do not want to continue in the contract). All right. I do understand that I might not be totally correct here, but, I am just trying to apply what I have learned so far in my Business Law class that focuses on contracts, and also in my Contract Law class. Feel free to shoot me down. It's how we learn! ;-)
mrskrismendoza mrskrismendoza 9 years
It is NOT myspace's fault. Sadly, this seems like a case of greedy parents.
dootsie dootsie 9 years
Fifteen year olds shouldn't be allowed to have Myspace accounts. Plain and simple. And don't blame Myspace for that--I've known kids to lie to be able to sign up for other websites, and it's not hard to do. Parents need to watch their kids. Computers are not suitable babysitters.
allieperez allieperez 9 years
I feel for the girl, really I do. She was obviously in a bad place and felt like she had nowhere to turn that took such drastic measures. However, myspace is not to blame; where her parents when she was perusing the internet trolling for guys. Where were they when she talked about meeting up with him. Myspace is a free networking site, that for the majority of the world, is used to communicate with friends and to catch up with old ones. They allow you to make your page private and to approve messages and comments. They allow you to set it so that you must be a friend in order to message someone. I was 15 once and my parents monitored all of my internet usage. There is no one to blame and it's unfortunate that her parents are looking for a scapegoat where there is none.
megnmac megnmac 9 years
jadoremondieu put it all so well... I don't blame any more than I blame hotmail or gmail for allowing people to email, or classified personal ads, or parks for allowing people to meet there. The internet is a part of the world we all live in, and parents need to know where their kids are physically and what they're up to on the internet. These are parents with grief, and I understand we as a society want to protect our children from the bad people out there. These predators are out there, and will find children, we need to work as a society to stop that. But regulating networking sites isn't feasible or necessary.
SkinnyMarie SkinnyMarie 9 years
Do you sue a phone company for threats over the phone, or your email service for the same thing? I agree with all of the above.
LadyAngel89 LadyAngel89 9 years
And why exactly did the parents not know where their daughter was when this 27-year old man was visiting? I know the daughter could have easily snuck it around the parents, but how exactly does that make anything Myspace's fault?
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
jadoremondieu put it beautifully!
cottonpoots cottonpoots 9 years
The parents have no one else to blame, so they have to resort to Myspace. Ridiculous and obviously uncalled for, but I can see where their desperation comes from.
Bookish Bookish 9 years
I agree with the above posters. It's sad, but it's not the fault of a website.
calamari calamari 9 years
It's always a tragedy when a young person takes their own life. However, myspace is simply a place where people meet. My heart goes out to this family, but we cannot blame myspace.
sparklemeetspop sparklemeetspop 9 years
I agree with pp. Would you sue a telephone company if they communicated by phone? And how exactly can you police predators online? There are several ways to help protect children online. I think one of the best ways is to put the home computer out in the open where everyone can see it to discourage trying to be secretive.
cnguyen42 cnguyen42 9 years
What did they expect the programmers to do? Run a background check? Myspace is a free website that has millions of users - it'd be virtually impossible to monitor every single word that is exchanged on that site. I agree with ashcwebb.. PARENTS need to assume responsibility for their children.
jadoremondieu jadoremondieu 9 years
I agree with ashcwebb & kaenai. I think that the most that hosting sites such as MySpace should do would be to remove certain content or perhaps notify authorities who could then contact parents, but then you run into the obvious questions of, who decides what content should be removed or at what stage should parents be contacted and by whom, etc? And re the latter, what about privacy? How are authorities or content providers supposed to guess at what stage the kids aren't just fooling around and are in actual danger? Can the state afford the resources to trawl randomly through sites and engage professionals to gauge the risk to the users of the sites? Surely it's more a reflection of society and a failure to put supports in place that are more about family, community etc rather than blaming the hosts of a forum. I mean, I know this analogy may not fully work, but isn't blaming MySpace almost like, if you have kids doing drugs in the park, or discussing suicide and making death pacts in the park, to blame the local council for having the park there and allowing kids to do any of the above? Just because facilities exist out there doesn't mean that they have to or even CAN be responsible for everything that occurs there. Having said all that, I can't imagine the grief of the parents and I'm not in a position to criticise anything they may be doing or thinking right now, as I've never been in a position even vaguely similar. All I am is feeling sad and frustrated and sympathetic for their position.
Berlin Berlin 9 years
that is just ridiculous blaming an internet site...that's just as bad as saying fast food chains are responsible for making you fat..geez put the blame where it belongs. and it shows a lot on the parents that they were so out of touch with their daughter that she was so depressed over a prank played that she committed suicide. I mean if it was done in person or through notes, then who would they be blaming?
kaenai kaenai 9 years
Seriously, they can't control what people say. They can barely control the pictures people put up there. With the level of camwhoring that goes on there, it's amazing this sort of thing doesn't happen more often. It's not MySpace's fault. They need to learn to let go. Can't be mad at the world forever.
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