It spread, as these things tend to do today, like a virus around 10 p.m. last night.

“None [sic] cares about you. Go kill yourself. Maybe you’ll succeed this time.”

“You suck. Your ugly and your a total bitch.”

“You bot [sic] look anorexic and try to pretend you are depressed.  Your not popular, your not cool. Go die.”

Except this was no virus.  It was photos on a popular photo-sharing site of middle and high school students in a suburban town posted on an anonymous account with nasty comments attached to them.

It took only minutes for dozens of students to get wind of it but the damage was done.

Another example of cyberbullying strikes again.

(Note: There is obviously more to this incident but I am specifically leaving out certain details in the interests of privacy of those innocent students involved and because I understand the situation and investigation is fluid.)

So, why raise it here on an employment law blog? There are many reasons, but I’ll highlight two below.

First, if you have summer interns or high school students working at your business, this incident shows the dangers of social media.   Students are using these tools and may be using them to talk about other students — who may also be employees.

What are you doing to protect your other employees? Do your interns and student workers know about your policies on social media and anti-harassment? How much do you regulate their conduct? Are your anti-harassment policies effective?

Second, and sadly, some students learn bullying behavior by example.  And there are plenty of instances of this type of nasty, boorish behavior making its way into the workplace from grown-ups who should know better.  Don’t think it can happen?

Earlier this week on Where We Live, I talked a bit about “workplace mobbing” – or the notion that co-workers start ganging up (improperly) on another co-worker.  This type of harassment is starting to be looked at by the legislature; but regardless, is this really the type of behavior you want to condone at work?

Social media can be a wonderful tool, but it also has the potential to be bring out the worst in people too.  A policy is a good start, but continued education about what is appropriate (or not appropriate) in the workplace is necessary to.

Because what goes on the Internet may just make its way in the workplace too.