A Mother’s Message: Cyber-bullying Can be Deadly | News
Plattsburg, Mo. — A mother is sharing her powerful story about how an extreme case of cyber-bullying destroyed her daughter. In 2006, 13-year-old Megan Meier killed herself in her home in O’Fallon, Missouri, after a boy she was flirting with online turned against her and friends started posting cruel things about her MySpace.
The case made national news after it was discovered the boy Megan thought she was talking to was actually a 46-year-old woman, a neighbor, and mother of Megan’s former friend. There was talk of charges against the mother, but the laws didn’t seem to cover an incident like this.
Now Megan’s mother, Tina Meier, travels the country sharing her daughter’s story. She’s hoping to prevent this story from repeating itself again and again.
Wednesday morning, Tina was in Chillicothe speaking to a group of about 1,200 kids, and later, she traveled to Plattsburg High and spoke to more than 1,000 kids from seven schools. Tina was invited because the presiding judge in the 43rd circuit courts in the five-county area has a growing concern about cyber-bullying.
“There was kind of an alarming increase in the number of bullying cases we were having in juvenile court,” said Judge Brent Elliott. “We know there are some serious criminal and legal consequences from it, and we hope it doesn’t get to that point that’s why we’re here. We want to avoid having these kids in the juvenile system.”
Tina Meier is glad to hear the court system taking cyber-bullying seriously. She actually helped fight to change the laws in Missouri to protect kids and make cyber-bullying a crime.
“So for them to stand up and the community to stand up and say we’re going to be proactive is huge because many times we wait for tragedy to happen and then pick up the pieces,” Tina says.
Tina told the kids her daughter’s story, that a “hot” boy friended her and told her she was beautiful. Meier was very careful with her daughter’s MySpace account and monitored the whole thing. But suddenly, five weeks later, he said he didn’t want to be her friend. Some girls joined in the attack publicly on MySpace calling Megan a slut and fat — and worse. Tina told her daughter to ignore it, and turn the computer off. Tina found her daughter that evening hanging in her bedroom closet. She says kids need to realize their words can be powerful. And she says parents need to recognize that this isn’t the kind of bullying they’re used to.
“Now we take it through the technology, through texting and Facebook and Twitter, and those things that were between a couple of people are now throughout the entire school,” Tina says.
Tina hopes that if kids leave her lectures with only one message, it’s to think about what you’re doing and how it could affect someone, and whether you could live with yourself if something horrible did happen.
“You can try to apologize later, but the damage you’ve done, it doesn’t completely heal,” Tina says, “so think about those things because once you say it, it’s gone.”
Tina suggests that if your child complains about being cyber-bullied, don’t ignore it Listen to them and help them work through what they think should be done. After all, being bullied makes kids feel helpless and that there’s nothing they can do. Helping them decide how they want to handle it can help them feel like they do have some control. She also suggests saving everything and keeping good records, just in case you do need to take legal action.
Click here for more information about the Megan Meier Foundation.