In the past two weeks, two students in Arlington, Va., have been arrested for sending threatening instant messages, or IMs, reports the Washington Post. The messages were supposed to be pranks, but they are being taken seriously by local authorities. On May 18, a 15-year-old boy sent an anonymous IM to a friend, threatening to harm her and others at school. She told her parents that night, and police evacuated the school then swarmed the place until the boy turned himself in. He faces a felony charge of making a written threat to kill.
On May 24, another school was locked down for the afternoon after three students reported receiving similar threats via IM. On Thursday, police arrested a 13-year-old boy, a brother of one of the recipients, and charged him with the same felony count and harassment by computer, a misdemeanor. The arrests have exposed a new gray area for teenagers. They live in an age when it is delectably easy to use an anonymous screen name to freak out their friends — and in a society that has learned the hard way to take threats of violence seriously.