Megan Meier was at the young age of 12 years old when the dramatic events began, events that would ultimately have a tragic ending for her. Just like any regular teenager, Megan had many social accounts registered under her personal nick and on one of them she met Josh Evans, who was supposedly a sixteen year-old boy. The truth, though, is that Josh was the accumulation of Ashley, Lori Drew, Sarah’s mother and an old friend of Megan.
The two became friends and things seemed quite great for them, but on October 16th, 2006, Josh messaged Megan that he wanted their friendship to end. In his message he told Megan that the world would be better without her. Shortly after that, Megan committed suicide by hanging herself.
With such a tragic ending, the question lingers: How big of an issue is cyberbullying and is there anything that can be done about it? The computer crime investigation department handling the case said that this is amongst the saddest cases they had to deal with and they’re doing everything they can to raise awareness of how important it is for parents to be more aware of how their children spend their time online.
While none of us are new to bullying, it seems that ever since the Internet age began, the problem has escalated to a much higher level. And it’s not like any of us can run from technology in an attempt to shield ourselves from mediums that are favorable for cyberbullying.
A trustee for BulliesOut, a charity that works towards combating online and offline bullying, Carole Philips says that cyberbullying is very hard to deal with, and at the moment all she can do is pass on her experience and knowledge to children through interactive classes. According to her, the main culprits for cyberbullying are the social media websites and because they’re everywhere, no one can really escape their reach.
An even bigger obstacle towards fighting cyberbullying is the fact that the young generation today has been raised on the emergence of technology and they embrace everything from smartphones to the coolest and most popular social media websites. Youngsters nowadays are basically playing in a lawless society online without having the maturity or emotional capacity of dealing with issues when things take a wrong turn, while many also don’t have an adult who can steer them in the right direction.
So what can be done? Carole Philips advises that the only real solution to this is for youth workers, social workers, educators and most of all parents, to get to grips with exactly what their kids are exposed to, remind their kids not to act online in a way that they would never act in the real world and to instill levels of morality.
Schools have an essential role to play in this and not just child protection officers and ICT teachers need to be educated on the matter, but parents as well. They need to be engaged in work and training so that together they can safeguard the younger generation. Even more, youngsters need to be taught about the negative consequences of using social media websites in a negative way. Technology should not be used for people to behave in ways they never would if it didn’t exist.
John Douglas holds a Master’s Degree in Forensic Science in the field of Forensic Computing from the Royal Military College of Science, Cranfield University. In 2007 John was awarded a Metropolitan Police Commander’s Commendation for his cutting edge forensic work. John brings over 20 years of computer experience and programming skills to the cases he works on and his ability to reverse engineer malicious code has been central to cases involving hacking and computer misuse.