When the 14-year-old girl received the threat, she called police. Her mother asked officers for extra patrol because they feared the threats would become reality. Police say Smith, 38, told the teen she would "take her whole family to heaven." She wrote that the girl should “start picking out caskets” and “get headstones.”
“It used to be bullying was happening at school on school grounds,” Community Partnership of the Ozarks Prevention Specialist Erica Manahan said. “The latest trend is cyberbullying is happening off campus, it's happening online on social networks.”
A Greene County prosecutor says it is rare that charges are filed against an adult for harassing a child online. In this case, Smith is accused of writing a message filled with racial slurs including the phrase “white pride” and telling the girl she has “enough trees in her back yard for the girl's entire family.” Officers say Smith also told the 14-year-old to “go back to Africa. Eat rice and have flies in your eyes.”
“It is becoming really prevalent because it's so easy,” Manahan said. “You don't have a face to look into when you're bullying. You just have a computer screen.” Manahan warns what anyone writes online could be monitored. “Cyberbullying is becoming a crime that can be prosecuted. Law enforcement can actually go to Facebook and issue a warrant for everything you've done on Facebook,” Manahan said. “Facebook has that archived. Even if it is a message that has been deleted on someone's account, they still have that documented. Cyberbullies are making a case for themselves online by putting everything out there.”
Police say Smith’s lengthy message ended with this statement "this is no threat this is a promise. Take that cash and get you some protection have SPD finest watch your family. Trust and believe I'll get YAAAAAAAAAA." At one point in the message police say Smith told the teenager she “had nothing to lose” because she had “swelling in her brain” and planned to make the front page of the local newspaper.
“It can get so intense because kids don’t have to look at a face,” Manahan said. “It can lead to kids self harming and even suicide. There have been several cases documented nationally and locally of kids that were cyber bullied and ultimately committed suicide.”
Smith is held in the Greene County jail on $40,000 bond. If she is released, she is ordered not to use the internet or contact the victim or her family. In 2008 lawmakers expanded the harassment statute, to include a more severe punishment for anyone 21-years-old or older who harasses someone 17-years-old or younger.
If someone is being bullied online, experts say you should document and report the behavior. “If we could put a stop to this, it will be really healthy for kids as they grow up.” Manahan said.
Sign off the computer. It's best to ignore attacks and walk away from the cyberbully.
Don't respond or retaliate. If you're angry and reply, then you might say nasty things. Cyberbullies often just want to get a reaction out of you, so don't let them know that their plan has worked.
Block the bully. If you get mean messages through IM or a social networking site, take the person off your buddy or friends list. You can also delete messages from bullies without reading them.
Save and print out bullying messages. If the harassment continues, save the evidence. This could be important proof to show parents or teachers if the bullying doesn't stop.
Talk to a friend. When someone makes you feel bad, sometimes it can help to talk the situation over with a friend.
Tell a trusted adult. A trusted adult is someone you believe will listen and who has the skills, desire, and authority to help you. Telling someone who fits that descriptions what's going on isn't tattling -- it's standing up for yourself. And even if the bullying occurs at home, your school probably has rules against it.