In 1996, I logged onto the Internet for the first time. Twenty minutes later, I was in a chat room. A few hours after that, I was building my first Internet homepage. Within a few days, I discovered there were people online who enjoyed tormenting others on the World Wide Web. The chat room I liked to visit was called the Christian Cafe, and the homepage I built was on a web site created by a Christian business. A few atheists, agnostics, pagans, and others who did not share my views began to attack me when I was in the chat room and would continuously leave horrible messages on the guestbook of my homepage. These few individuals managed to make my time on the Internet a living nightmare.
Slowly, I began to understand more about the cyber-bullies I was dealing with, though at the time, I don’t think the term cyber-bullying had even been invented. I learned to ignore the agitating that the Internet hooligans sent my way. I changed my guestbook so that only postings I allowed would ever be seen. I refused to go to any website where hostile comments were being made about me. It was only a few weeks before my evil fan club packed up and moved on. A cyber-bully needs the satisfaction of knowing he is reaping some kind of rewards from his work. When a victim responds, things can only get worse.
Some cyber-bullying is so disguised and inherently evil, that the person being attacked may not even realize it until it is too late. Take the case of Megan Meier, a 13-year-old girl from a St. Louis suburb, who committed suicide in 2006 after neighbors used a fake MySpace account to torment her. Lori Drew allegedly helped her daughter and a friend create an imaginary boy named Josh Evans who they played out as being interested in Megan. They then had the fake heartthrob turn on their neighbor, posting, “You are a bad person and everybody hates you. The world would be a better place without you.” I doubt Drew and her two teenage accomplices ever dreamed their heartless antics would cause Megan Meier to kill herself. But it did. That is what is so diabolical about cyber-bullying. The bully has no idea how much pain is being inflicted on the victim. People respond in very diverse ways to Internet harassment.
The person committing cyber-bullying needs to be aware that federal and state prosecutors are looking to develop serious legislation against Internet harassment. For almost a year, Lori Drew thought she couldn’t be prosecuted for her actions. MySpace is NOT to be used for the purpose of maligning others, and what Drew (if she is found guilty) did is use MySpace and Megan’s own computer as a weapon.
The victims of cyber-bullying need to let others know it is happening, while rejecting the urge to take matter into their own hands. Teenagers, in particular, need to let their siblings, parents, and if necessary, teachers know they are being harassed. Together, the group can decide if the authorities (police, principals, etc.) need to be involved. There are now plenty of anti-cyber-bulling websites to use as resources. These sites offer great advice about how to avoid the places on the Internet that can and will expose a person to cyber-bullies.
Witnesses to others being cyber-bullied need to also play an active role in ending the crime. This goes both ways. Witnesses need to offer sound advice to the bully and the victim. Remaining silent is, in my opinion, becoming an accomplice to the crime.
Megan Meier’s mother, Tina, has dedicated her life to fighting the horrors of cyber-bullying. Her goal is to make sure others know how dangerous the Internet can be, and how laws need to be put into place that deter the criminal activity of stalking and bullying others online. We should pray for God to give her the strength to carry on with her message. In the end, her work may save thousands of lives!
The Megan Meier Foundation http://www.meganmeierfoundation.org/
Stop Bullying Now http://stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/adult/indexAdult.asp?Area=cyberbullying
What a terrible thing to happen to a young girl! And to think an adult helped these teens to do this kind of thing. Thanks for passing along this info about the proposed law...I hope it keeps at least some of this behavior under control.