Sunday, December 16, 2007


LIKE most mobs, the one that pursued Megan Meier was cruel and unrelenting. Its members gathered on the social networking site MySpace and called Megan a liar, a fat whore and worse.
Megan, 13, fought back, insulting her tormenters with every profanity she knew. But the mob shouted her down, overwhelming her computer and her shaky self-confidence with a barrage of hateful instant messages.
“Mom, they’re being horrible!” Megan said, sobbing into the phone when her mother called. After an hour, Megan ran into her bedroom and hanged herself with a belt.
“She felt there was no way out,” Ms. Meier said.
Cellphone cameras and text messages, as well as social networking Web sites, e-mail and instant messaging, all give teenagers a wider range of ways to play tricks on one another, to tease and to intimidate their peers.
And unlike traditional bullying, which usually is an intimate, if highly unpleasant, experience, high-tech bullying can happen anywhere, anytime, among lots of different children who may never actually meet in person. It is inescapable and often anonymous, said sociologists and educators who have studied cyberbullying.
Even in this town, where Megan’s name is a constant reminder of the danger of the Web, adolescents say they love using the technology — and some do a little bullying of their own.
“I’m sure that every girl at this table has used cellphones or instant messaging to say something mean about somebody,” said Victoria Fogarty, as she discussed bullying with six other adolescents.
Other children are afraid of becoming the next victim.
“Once you’re on MySpace, you’re trapped,” said Jake Dobson, 12, a seventh grader at West Middle School. “You spend all your time online just trying to keep the negative stuff about you from spreading.”
After a difficult year, Megan’s parents transferred their daughter to Immaculate Conception Catholic School in Dardenne Prairie. The school had strict policies aimed at avoiding cliques. Students wear uniforms, and they are assigned lunch tables so they can socialize with everybody.
“There aren’t really cliques there at all,” said Rachel Garzon, 14, who befriended Megan. “You might be closer friends with some people, but you can walk up and talk to anybody and they’ll be nice to you.”
Megan, who had escaped the old cliques, retained her old MySpace page. “She technically wasn’t old enough, because you have to be 14,” Ms. Meier said. “But I was the only one who knew the password. I read every message she received or sent. I thought I could keep it safe, and Megan could meet some friends.”
MySpace uses algorithms and people to strike harassing or bullying images and content, the company said in a written statement, and the site offers users opportunities to report cyberbullies.
But controlling the Web can be almost impossible, experts on children say, and most adolescents are simply not mature enough to handle the virtual world and its anonymous attacks. For instance, “Adolescents take what is said online as the literal truth,”(...)
Three years ago, before Megan’s suicide, the school system identified cyberbullying as a serious problem, said Kim Carter,(...)
And before and after Megan’s death, the district held a variety of assemblies, meetings and workshops to train students, parents, faculty and administrators how to recognize and react to cyberbullying.
While all the vigilance has helped, students say, cyberbullying remains common.
This fall an unpopular boy started break dancing at a football game. People took cellphone photos and videos, which they immediately forwarded to hundreds of people. “They were egging him on because they wanted to keep making fun of him, and the photos made him look ridiculous,” said Jake Dobson, the seventh grader.
Even popular kids feel vulnerable.
December 16, 2007
Read the whole article


Blogger Patrícia said...

Dear teacher,

Thank you for your nice words :)

I love reading your comments, you're always special :)

Many kisses and good holidays (they should be starting)

Love of your student that never forget you


7:48 pm  

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