The evolution and advancement of technology has facilitated the production and usage of easily accessible information that has, in many ways, produced positive benefits to our way of life. The advent of the internet was initially received with praise for its wide-ranging capabilities to enhance knowledge, increase world-wide communication, and further global development. Over time, it has proved to be a helpful tool as well as one that can be used in a detrimental fashion producing harmful or even deadly consequences.
When 13-year-old Megan Meier, in Dardenne Prairie, Missouri, went online to the social networking site of My Space.com and developed a friendship with someone named "Josh," she was unaware that the result of that encounter would result in her death coupled with additional far-reaching secondary victimization. Megan was a young girl who suffered from depression, attention deficit disorder, self-esteem issues, and battled a weight problem. Reportedly, she had been seeing a counselor since she was in the third grade due to alleged concerns about the possibility of her contemplating suicide. At one point she had been the alleged victim of bullying. Her parents transferred her to a different school where she seemed happier, became involved in school activities, and lost 20 pounds.
The adolescent years naturally bring their own developmental difficulties without the added complexity of any other pre-existent conditions. It is common for young people in this age group to possess a strong desire to be loved by their families, accepted by their peers, and liked by their friends. The competitive edge that borders their relationships can be demanding, fierce, and unrelenting.
Thus, when Megan met her new friend, "Josh," online, her mother, Tina Meier, was somewhat leery but, with supervision, allowed her to maintain contact. Megan's new friend sent her text messages indicating he liked her, and he made her feel good about herself. Though Megan was bubbling with excitement, her mother still wondered who this new friend was but allowed her to continue communicating with Josh.
Megan became very upset, one day, when Josh seemed to turn on her. His charming, kind ways quickly transformed to a point when he sent Megan a message on October 15, 2006 stating, "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." Megan, who was astounded, asked for an explanation but didn't receive one. The following day, a series of unpleasant messages were transmitted between Megan and Josh. Megan continued to ask him who was telling him that she was a bad friend, and she also suggested names of people who might be doing this. A number of individuals then entered the controversy, and they, in turn, had others get involved in the verbal tirade. The mudslinging against Megan was augmented by insulting her with derogatory name calling and denigrating comments. For Megan, the final straw was when Josh ultimately told her the world would be a better place without her.
Megan took those words to heart and was emotionally crushed by someone to whom she had become attached through online communication. While her parents were preparing dinner, she went to her room and hung herself.
Her parents were devastated, the neighbors were shocked, and the community grieved. The series of events that evolved following her death demonstrate the nature, extent, and deleterious consequences of cyber bullying.