CLAY COUNTY, Fla. - Before a fight at Middleburg High School left a sophomore with black eyes and a concussion, and before the student accused of the attack was suspended, there was bickering on the Internet.
The father of 17-year-old Tierra Hartley, who was attacked, says it started over a boy. He says his daughter was harassed by her attacker and the girl's friends on sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Before the fight, one classmate wrote to Hartley a profanity-laced message that said violence may be coming, telling Hartley to shut up, and if she didn't, "don't be surprised if she hits you."
After the fight, the teen seemed to give kudos to the 17-year-old accused of the beating, tweeting, "atta girl."
The teen who was suspended for the incident replied, saying she's an (expletive).
"The social media networks seem to be contributing to escalating to extra bullying and violence amongst teenagers and even kids younger than that," said Dr. Carly Miller, a board certified psychiatrist who specializes in children's issues.
She said she's seeing an epidemic and is warning parents to be watchful of what their children post and what's being posted about them. And if it seems threatening, they should let the school or police know.
"What you would encourage your child to do is to not give any kind of response, not saying anything, not comment on those threats or things being said," Miller said.
Attorney Gene Nichols says his firm is seeing more and more cases of violence and bullying linked to social media. He says it's important to note that what people post online can be held against them in the court of law.
"Young people don't realize the damage this could do to them, and with an easy subpoena in any case, which the state attorney's office has the right to issue, they're going to find every statement made and absolutely they're going to use it against you in court," Nichols said.
In the case of the Middleburg fight, the girl accused of starting it apparently used social media to vent after getting in trouble, first writing that she was suspended, then saying she was going to get arrested.
Investigators have not given any information regarding possible criminal charges because they say this is a case involving minors and legally they can't.
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