Parry Aftab, (seen with me here) and the Wired Safety organization should be very happy with the turnout and feedback from yesterday’s first International Stop Cyberbullying Conference, held in White Plains, New York. For me, the best parts were meeting Megan Meier’s mom (see her photo below) and seeing the enthusiasm and interest from the over 200 students in attendance! And since there’s so much to cover, I decided to devote this week’s posts to the Cyberbullying conference. Here are my notes in the order in which they occurred – you’ll want to keep reading to see what happened to Megan Meier.
- Parry’s goal was to bring attention to cyberbullying – on a shoe string budget and thanked her many supporters: Platinum sponsor from Verizon. Michael Mkeon briefly spoke about the problems happening with kids on the internet. The goals at Verizon are to 1) educate 2) give people tools and 3) explain the role of law enforcement
- Parry then clarified some terminology: it’s cyberbullying when it involves kids and cyberstalking when adults are involved.
- Tween Angel, Brian, explained what constitutes online harassment. Brian said, "when you are constantly getting harassed and receiving bad messages, that’s cyberbullying. If it happens once, that’s not cyberbullying. Parry then asked, "what if someone writes, I will kill you?" One time is not cyberbullying. It’s just a person being rude — more than once could mean trouble.
- Tina Meier’s story touched me beyond words as she recounted her daughter, Megan’s, ordeal and ultimate suicide – which was the result of continuous online bullying.
While I was trying my hardest to keep up with the speakers - there was a webcast recording simultaneously – I was, however, able to record the gist of what happened to Megan.
And in all honesty, I heard Megan’s story before – but hearing her story, straight from her mom - made it hit home even harder.
Here’s my rough and shortened version of Tina’s story, which you can also read, here.
Megan was ready to turn 14 and asked me to be on Myspace and I have to admit I was hesitant - I wanted to be, and am, a strict mom. So what my husband and I decided was we’d make it private and we also protected it. Megan did not have password and wasn’t thrilled about that…she wanted to have her independence, just like any other teenager.
So while Megan was meeting and talking to her friends online, she was never once alone. Either my husband or I would be in the room with her. Whenever Megan was on Myspace, we were there.
After about 5 weeks, Megan came home after talking to this boy. The boy said you’re not a nice person and I don’t want to speak to you anymore.
The next day, Megan went to school, excited to give out invitations for her 14th birthday party. Since she LOVED polka dots, she decided that she had to have polka dotted invitations. I called her the black and white polka dot queen. If you notice, that’s why Megan’s posters are all polka-dots.
But Megan couldn’t understand why he went from being really nice and saying nice things about her, to all of sudden, saying nasty, and hurtful things.
I want you all to know, words really hurt and they really hurt Megan.
You see, Megan was already bullied from 3rd grade – 8th grade. She was called fat; your braces look like train tracks; you’re stupid. She was stomped in the back – called a cow. Made fun of in gym – called thunder thighs – she endured a lot of every day school with a life teasing.
Now she had the one person who was nice to her, “Josh,” now calling her a fat ass and a whore. And that’s the nice version.
So 15 minutes later Megan was crying and saying they were saying bad things about her. I called her a half hour later, since I had to take my other daughter to the orthodontist. I asked her, what’s going on? Did you go on Myspace after I told you not to? She said, "yes." And I was so upset because she broke the rules which were #1) she wasn’t supposed to be on Myspace without mom or dad in the room. And #2, When it’s time to get off, you have to get off. And I told her to get off.
Tomorrow I will share with you, resources that every parent, teacher, librarian, and student needs to have in an effort to stop cyberbullying.
The fact that most kids don’t tell their parents that they have been cyberbullied alarmed me — especially the number of students who raised their hands when asked if they had ever been bullied online. An overwhelming number of young people have been bullied in some way. One student told of a new way which I will share in the coming days. Oh, you haven’t already done so already, sign up for the Megan Pledge.
On a personal note, this story makes me so sad because as a kid, I can remember being bullied to tears. The kids were so mean to me and my siblings. They would say such mean things that I remember to this day. And after attending yesterday’s conference, I learned why my parents were wrong when they told me to ignore it.
For the 30 and over readers and pre-cyberbullying babies – were you bullied as a kid?