My son, who will soon be attending high school, was laughing about a post one of his friends made on Facebook. (If your children are on social networking sites, you should be on them as well!)

It was not in this instance a bullying comment, but still the language was horrifying. Once again, I gave him the lecture on permanence.

If you are with others or on the phone and you make a negative gossipy comment about someone (I’m not condoning this), it might be overheard and repeated but it is amorphous, intangible, and changeable. If you write the same comment down, in a Facebook post or a phone text or an email, it becomes permanent. In today’s social networking arena, that permanence makes it available to millions of others often instantaneously. It can be seen by friend, foe, co-workers, employers, prospective employer, teachers, relatives – and the one that seems to make a difference to my teenager – girls he might at some time in the future want to date.

Those posts are also traceable – no matter how many email addresses or internet personas you embody.

My son complains that I’m too much of a lawyer but there is a reason why damages in libel cases are more prevalent than in actions for slander.

This message is for everyone. Think before you put something in writing. It’s forever.

Maryfrances Palmisano
Former social worker and juvenile/criminal defense attorney
Instructor at JK Lee Black Belt Academy in Milwaukee, WI
Mother of three children