Here & Now Guest:
Nancy Willard, Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use
Three teenagers admitted Thursday that they participated in the bullying of a 15-year-old Massachusetts girl who later committed suicide, with one of the girl's lawyers complaining that they had been unfairly demonized as "mean girls."
"We have to recognize that this is occurring in digital environments where there are no adults present. That means we really have to be focusing on increasing the skills of young people in responding to these situations."Nancy Willard, director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use
Prosecutors said Prince, who had recently emigrated from Ireland, was hounded by five teens after she briefly dated two boys. Her death drew international attention and was among several high-profile teen suicides that prompted new laws aimed at cracking down on bullying in schools.
By admitting to sufficient facts, they acknowledged that prosecutors could win a conviction if the case went to trial. The charges against the girls were continued without a finding and will be dismissed if they successfully complete their probation.
Under a plea deal approved by Prince's family, prosecutors agreed to dismiss more serious charges against them.
Two other teens finalized similar deals with prosecutors in court Wednesday.
[sidebar title="Novel Explores Teen Suicide" width="250" align="right"] In his debut novel, “13 Reasons Why,” Jay Asher deals with the issue of teen suicide. The protagonist, Hannah Baker, records a series of audio tapes, explaining why she took her own life. Listen to our interview with Jay Asher about his book.
Speaking to WBUR's Here & Now, Nancy Willard, director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use said to avoid bullying in the future, there needs to be a focus on teaching kids to stand up to the behavior.
"We have to recognize that this is occurring in digital environments where there are no adults present," she said. "So that means we really have to be focusing on increasing the skills of young people in responding to these situations, both if they're being victimized and if they're witnessing. "
Willard wants kids to understand there isn't a stigma against standing up to bullies.
"Young people actually look up and really respect those who step in and help others," she said. "And that's the message we have to get across."
The Associated Press contributed reporting to this article.
This segment aired on May 6, 2011.