I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to present alongside Tina Meier last week at a cyberbullying event in Detroit sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League. I have spoken to Tina on the phone several times in the past, but this was the first time that I was able to meet her in person. By now just about everyone is familiar with the nightmare that Tina has been forced to live with over the past few years after the untimely death of her teenaged daughter Megan. It is a tragic story no matter how you read it.
I am happy to see Tina taking this horrible situation and turning it into a movement to educate others about the harmful effects of online aggression left unchecked. At the event I expected Tina to simply recount her story, but she in fact went way beyond that. In the relatively short time since being thrust into this area, she has come to understand quite a bit about the online activities of adolescents and did a commendable job moving beyond her unique story to educate the audience about the varied issues involved. Her presentation was a very good compliment to mine and I was encouraged to see that we were on the same page regarding a variety of issues.
Sometimes as researchers I think there is a risk that we can become too detached from that which we are studying. A lot of times we are simply working with numbers—nameless, faceless statistics. We need to be constantly reminded that behind every cyberbullying victim or offender or parent or teacher there is a story that needs to be told. Thankfully, Sameer and I speak to teens, parents, educators, and others involved in dealing with cyberbullying on a regular basis so it is difficult to become callous to the issues. Talking with Tina last week reaffirmed my commitment to continuing to work toward better understanding the causes and consequences of cyberbullying so that efforts can be undertaken to prevent these negative behaviors from taking a toll on our youth.