Tips for preventing kids from cyberbullying

Tina Meier, Executive Director of the Megan Meier Foundation, shares advice for parents on the best methods for preventing children from cyberbullying and explains why zero tolerance policies are ineffective
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Tips for preventing kids from cyberbullying

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You know, parents having zero tolerance policies, like schools having zero tolerance policies, they don't work. It's one of those things that if you do A-B-C-D, then I'm going to take this away. When we're talking about online behavior, if a child knows that if I say something that's not appropriate, or if I add somebody and you're going to take the phone away, they will do anything and everything to hide it. So what it is is more of the conversations. It is truly from a very early age of setting rules and guidelines. Of course we have to have consequences. And we have to let them know that certain behaviors are not going to be tolerated. But to say, if you add somebody that you don't know, or if you do this, I'm taking the phone away, they will do anything and everything to make sure that you do not know about it. They will have multiple accounts. They will make sure that they delete things before you see them. It is not a good situation. So we really suggest not putting that out there, setting some guidelines from very early on, and making sure that you continually keep talking to them about that. I know that many times as parents it feels like they never listen to us, they're constantly it's going in one ear and out the other, but many times when we talk to them more calmly and at opportune times, they do take small pieces and they do listen.

Tina Meier, Executive Director of the Megan Meier Foundation, shares advice for parents on the best methods for preventing children from cyberbullying and explains why zero tolerance policies are ineffective

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Tina Meier

Executive Director

Tina Meier is an internationally recognized expert on bullying, cyberbullying, internet safety, conflict resolution, the roles of parents and educators, sexting, and suicide awareness and prevention.

On October 16, 2006, Tina Meier’s life took a devastating turn when her 13 year old daughter, Megan Taylor Meier, took her own life. All attempts were made to save Megan, but unfortunately Megan passed away on October 17, 2006, just weeks from her 14th birthday.

Approximately 5 weeks prior to her passing, a 16 year old boy by the name of Josh Evans, contacted Megan through her MySpace account and they began a friendship. Tina Meier, allowed Megan to have a MySpace account with many restrictions and under her watchful eye.  Unfortunately, on that fateful day of October 16, 2006, Josh Evans and Megan began to have an argument over MySpace.  A few others joined in and horrible and hurtful messages and bulletins went out publicly to hundreds of kids. The last words that were said to Megan from Josh were, “The world would be a better place without you” and “Have a shi**y rest of your life.”

Six weeks after Megan’s suicide, Tina Meier was informed that Josh Evans never existed. In fact, he was the fictitious creation of Lori Drew, an adult neighbor that lived down the street, her 13-year-old daughter Sarah, which was Megan’s former friend, and an 18-year-old employee that worked out of Lori Drew’s home.

In December of 2007, Tina Meier, founded the 501 (c)(3) non-profit Megan Meier Foundation.  The Foundation’s mission is to “create awareness, education and promote positive change to children, parents and educators in response to the ongoing bullying and cyberbullying in our children’s daily environment.” Tina’s hope is to make a difference through spreading Megan’s story, create awarness regarding internet safety, and educate others on the consequences of bullying and cyberbullying. She hopes to help one child at a time cope with these negative social issues. Ultimately, her goal is to empower children to be the change and continue the Foundation’s mission.

At the time of this tragedy, the State of Missouri did not have laws in place to prosecute someone using electronic communications to cyberbully another person. Tina worked closely with Senator Scott Rupp and Governor Matt Blunt’s Internet Task Force for the State of Missouri to help pass Senate Bill 818, which went into law on August 28, 2008. This law amended the harassment and stalking laws to include electronic communication.

Each year, Tina travels throughout the country as a keynote speaker addressing the issue of bullying and cyberbullying in today’s world to students, educators, administrators, parents, youth rallies, counselors, law enforcement, and other professionals. Through Tina’s inspirational and educational message, the audience is empowered to make a difference not only for themselves, but others also.

Tina has continued to spread the Foundation’s message and Megan’s story through national and international media appearances such as network television stations, radio, news shows, magazines and syndicated talk shows. She also accepted a Presidential invitation to attend the 2011 White House Anti-Bullying Conference, presented at the U.S. Department of Education’s Safe and Drug Free Schools National Conference in Washington, DC, and served as a consultant during the production of the ABC Family movie, Cyberbully.

Tina Meier resides in St. Louis, Missouri, with her daughter Allison. 

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