By Mike Scott
At one time or another, nearly every one has faced some kind of bullying. Whether it’s name calling, intimidation, or physical pushing and shoving, bullying hurts kids.
Today’s technology allows bullying to take place in many new ways--and for the bully to remain anonymous, which has given rise to a new form: Cyber Bullying.
Cyber bullying, which is sometimes referred to as online social cruelty or electronic bullying, can involve:
--Sending mean, vulgar, or threatening messages or images;
--Posting sensitive, private information about another person;
--Pretending to be someone else in order to make that person look bad;
--Intentionally excluding someone from an online group
Children and youth can cyberbully each other through: --E-mails,
--Text or digital imaging messages sent on cell phones,
--Web logs (blogs),
--Chat rooms and groups.
How big is the problem? Recent studies have found that 18% of 6-8 graders have been cyberbullied at least once in the past two month. Girls are twice as likely to be bullied.
Eleven percent of 6-8 graders say they have bullied someone else at least once in the past month.
On Wednesday, March 12, Clark County students in grades 5-12 had an assembly featuring Tina Meier of suburban St. Louis. Meier’s teenage daughter, Megan, committed suicide after being bullied online, in a case that drew national media attention.
“I’m not here to lecture you,” Meier told the students. “You’re going to decided what you are going to do for yourself. I just hope you can take one thing away from this, and change what you do.”
Meier outlined her daughter’s history of being bullied from early on in school. Being called “stupid” or “four-eyes” upset Megan to the point where she was diagnosed with depression. The bullying continued into junior high, before she transferred to a private school, where “things were great”, according to Tina.
When Megan was thirteen, her parents allowed her to create a MySpace account, on the condition that she followed a strict set of rules such as the computer must be in the living room, and Megan’s parents did not not allow her to have the passwords.
“I thought I was doing everything I could,” recalled Tina.
After several weeks, a boy name Josh Evans asked to be Megan’s friend online. After days of being badgered by Megan to allow it, Tina gave in and allowed Josh to be added as a “friend”.
“At first it was all complementary stuff, “ Tina said. “It made Megan feel good about herself.”
Then one day, things changed. On Oct. 15, 2006, Josh suddenly turned mean. He called Megan names, and later they traded insults for an hour.
“The things that were going back and forth were terrible. I made Megan get off the computer,” Tina said.
The next day, Tina had to take Megan’s sister to an appointment, and left the house while Megan was logged into her MySpace account. Megan was supposed to log off right away. She didn’t, and the things being said were worse than ever.
Tina called to check on her, and got upset that Megan was still online. Megan was in tears. Josh had written, “The world would be a better place without you.”
When she got home, Tina argued about Megan breaking the rules.
“You’re my mother. You’re supposed to be on my side,” Megan yelled, and ran to her room. Those were her last words. Twenty minutes later, Tina found Megan hanging in her closet.
Later, when Tina tried to check the Josh Evans account, it was gone.
Several weeks went by before a neighbor called the Meiers, saying she had information about Megan’s death. They found out that the Josh Evans account was a fake, set up by another mother and daughter only four doors away.
“They did it to find out if Megan was talking about her daughter behind her back,” Tina said.
“You have no idea who is on the computer,” Tina told the students.
During the assembly, CCR-1 student sat quietly, some obviously uncomfortable with the story.
“It really made and impact on my students. I had a couple fifth-graders go home and delete their MySpace accounts,” said Running Fox Principal Julie Brotherton.