November 20, 2007

EIE Statement on Megan Meier Suicide

EIE Statement on Megan Meier Suicide


Enough Is Enough® (EIE) extends its deepest sympathy to the family of Megan Meier, the most recent victim of cyberbullying. Megan, who had just started the eighth grade at a new school, had a lifelong struggle with self-esteem. As is common with so many youth, she sought acceptance and love from peers, and a new friendship with an attractive boy on Myspace gave her the affirmation she desperately wanted. What Megan didn't know was that rather than flirting with a new acquaintance online, she was really communicating with the parents of a neighborhood girl who had created the fake social networking profile to find out what Megan was saying online about their daughter.

The online relationship continued to build until Megan received a disturbing message from the fake profile that said: "I don't know if I want to be friends with you anymore because I've heard that you are not very nice to your friends." The content quickly spiraled downward; the parents behind the fake profile began forwarding information about Megan to others in the school and began sending harassing messages to Megan. Three weeks before her 14th birthday, Megan committed suicide.

This harrowing story reminds us all that we never really know who we are communicating with. Adults have used the Internet to victimize children in many forms, and it is incredibly important to teach your children how to protect themselves from this type of online harassment. Teach your children to never open, read or respond to messages from someone they don't know in the physical world. If an online "friend" begins saying hurtful things to your child, tell your child to stop communicating with them. Children do not have to accept any online activity that is meant to intimidate, threaten, tease or harm them or anyone else. Watch out for warnings signs including reluctance to use the computer or go to school, or watch for a marked change in your child's behavior and mood. Report any offensive or dangerous e-mail, chat or other communications to local law enforcement, your ISP and the social networking site your child is using. Imposter profiles, cyberbullying, and harassment violate the terms of use of most social networking sites, including Myspace. Do not delete the evidence, and tell your child how much you love and care for them. Listen to them about their online life, and remember that neither you nor your children should ever use the Internet to exploit, harass, or embarrass another. Parents are the first first line of defense in making sure teens are safe and making smart decisions on the Internet. This is a case where a parent made a very poor decision and played a cruel hoax that resulted in the loss of a young life.

We encourage parents to look at EIE's Cyberbullying Tips for Parents.