Using "likes" for cyberbullying

Tina Meier, Executive Director of the Megan Meier Foundation, explains how people use "likes" on social media, and why some kids may perceive this as as form of bullying
How kids use "likes" for cyberbullying
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Using "likes" for cyberbullying

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I think that as a parent when you see your child, they're taking selfies all of the time. And they take pictures of their food, they take pictures of their animals, they take pictures where they're walking, they take pictures of everything. And then they put it out on their social media and their apps. And then they scroll through to see, has anybody liked it? Has anybody made a comment? How many people liked mine versus how many people liked another person's? And because they're liked or not liked is not bullying. It just means it's somebody's preference. Now if they start getting repeated negative comments on there, certainly, those are things you need to start paying attention to. But what ends up happening is if they're trying to put themselves out there and they see that these other kids have 50 likes, and theirs have 2, and this is a continual pattern, absolutely are they going to start feeling like, I'm not pretty enough. I'm not liked enough. People don't like the things I do. Maybe I should have this and people would like it. So you can really start seeing that children do put themselves at different levels compared to what other people are doing. At the end of the day, we talk to kids about, and we want to explain to them that a like does not measure who you are. And it's really important for a parent to see that if a child is declining, if all of a sudden they are now where they're not getting online anymore, if they're not taking pictures, if they're withdrawing from friends, if they're not wanting to go to school, if you start seeing some changes in your child, absolutely it is time to make sure that you pay attention. It's not just a teen phase. We want to make sure that if there is something more that they seek professional advice to make sure that they can help them through some of these turbulent times. There's a professor in St. Louis at Washington University, the Department of Psychology that states that, listen, everybody if you look at the social media sites, everybody puts their best foot forward. They put where they're going on vacation, if they just got married, if they just bought a new house., if they just got a promotion. They put their children, their grandbabies. They put all of these really positive good things out there. and the other people , even adults, sit there and think, I can't afford a new house. Or I'm not able to have children. Or, I can't go on vacation. And you start feeling less. You start feeling like everybody else is going up the hill, and I'm staying stagnant. So it can really be disruptive for our psyche, for students and for parents.

Tina Meier, Executive Director of the Megan Meier Foundation, explains how people use "likes" on social media, and why some kids may perceive this as as form of bullying

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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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