I’ve been mulling over this topic for several days now, trying to wrap my mind and emotions around this horrific story. It is sad enough when a child feels so despondent that the only alternative is to take one’s life. But, in the case of Megan Meier, knowing that a parent…a neighbor who lived just four houses down from the child…played a part in this child’s death overwhelms me.
Megan’s parents were not neglectful; they did not allow their daughter unfettered access to MySpace. According to journalist Steve Pokin of the St. Charles Journal, Megan’s mother monitored quite closely whom her daughter added as a friend to her MySpace page.
The cyber-friend was ‘Josh Evans,’ a sixteen-year-old, good-looking boy (a fake photo) who claimed to live nearby and who was home-schooled. With her mother’s permission, Megan began on online friendship with ‘Josh.’ Once Megan’s trust was gained, the contact from ‘Josh’ grew nasty and vile. ‘He’ posted comments such as, “Megan Meier is a slut.”
The truth of this story may never have been known had another parent—who learned of the phony account from her own daughter who had access to the ‘Josh’ profile—not told Megan’s parents about the hoax several weeks after Megan’s death.
What sticks in my craw, not only in this case, but in the virtually unrestrained world of cyberspace, is how, once again, the law is not protecting our children. The woman who created ‘Josh Evans’ phony profile has not been charged with a crime. She allegedly told the St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department she “created Josh’s profile” to gain Megan’s confidence and find out what Megan was saying about her own child online.
There is no law on the books to hold the neighbor-parent responsible for her actions. And it has taken nearly a year for the Megan Meier story to hit the national and international news. Megan’s parents are now leading the charge to create more legal safeguards for children on the Internet.
Incidents of cyber-bullying seem to be growing exponentially. For parents and teachers, dealing with child bullies is tough enough. But when the bullying of a child is done by an adult—a neighbor, a child’s friend’s parent—it’s enough to make me want to throw the right to privacy out with the bath water.
A deadly game has been growing in popularity across the country. Known as The Choking Game, kids get a quick high by stopping the flow of oxygenated blood to the brain. Yup! You read it right…
How do they play this so-called game? Sometimes they choke each other until one passes out. Or they may use a ligature. The latter method is extremely dangerous because more and more kids are “playing the game” alone. And the effects of the high are addictive.
The Choking Game can cause the permanent death of brain cells. Physicians say, too, that the variation in blood pressure “may also cause strokes, seizures, and retinal damage.”
Others do it because it’s “cool” and risky. Most of the kids who have died from this were not children in trouble. Most were well liked, active, intelligent, stable children who wanted nothing to do with drugs or alcohol. This was an activity they felt was safe. Children have no clue about the physiological principles involved and need to be told by the adults in their lives how dangerous this is.
Why kids are taking such risks with their lives? Think back to your adolescent and teen years. We all wanted to be cool. And, I dare say, most of us engaged in risky behavior. Most of us luckily survived, and without our parents even knowing the crazy things we did. Kids have no sense of their own mortality coupled with a strong sense of invincibility.
So what’s a parent to do? Talk with your kids…talk with your school officials, and talk with other parents. Open communication and education are always the best means.
Oh, and don’t fall into the “not my kid” trap. Ask yourself this question first: What stupid, idiotic activity did I do when I was their age? I bet most of us can up with at least one dumb thing we did. I know I can.
Are you obsessed with your children? Do you hover about them, tending to their every (and often misperceived) need? Have you planned your child’s life from Day One almost to the point where you need a Day Planner or Blackberry dedicated to all his or her activities–soccer practice, dance lessons, violin lessons, play dates, and on and on ad nauseam?
Well, then you’ve graduated to a new class designation. That’s right, you’re no longer just a Baby Boomer, you’re a Helicopter Parent.
Mel Levine, a professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina Medical School in Chapel Hill and author of Ready or Not, Here Comes Life (Simon and Schuster, 2005) says today’s children “may well shatter.” He believes children are being coddled and protected to a degree that threatens their later ability to stand on their own.
Now a recent Wall Street Journal article thinks the blame belongs on Mr. Rogers (Blame It on Mr. Rogers: Why Young Adults Feel So Entitled July 5, 2007; Page B5). Now isn’t that typical of us Baby Boomers! Let's look beyond our own actions and place the blame elsewhere, like on that gentle, sweater-wearing, soft-spoken cultural icon.
The WSJ article quotes Don Chance, a finance professor at Louisiana State University, as saying he wishes more parents would offer kids this perspective: “The world owes you nothing. You have to work and compete. If you want to be special, you’ll have to prove it.”
Beverly Low, a dean at Colgate University, in an article in the Albany Times Union (January 27, 2005) says that where before parents would drop their kids off to college and get out of the way, parents now constantly call her office intervening in a roommate dispute or questioning a professor’s grading system.
So next time the urge to hover (meddle) strikes you, stay grounded. Do what a parent should do. Help your children make good choices. Show them that self-reliance ain’t just a Ralph Waldo Emerson essay in English Lit. It’s the way to survive and thrive in the grown-up world.
Many of you folks probably don't know that I write a blog for a great company called KidsTerrain, Inc. Over the next few weeks I'm going to share some of those entries with you. I encourage you, too, to explore KidsTerrain...and excellent resource company for issues involving the family, school, and work.
Recently, my novel Painting The Invisible Man was "turned down" for a review because it was "old"...meaning it came out in the fall of 2007.
This attitude is such a conundrum in publishing. A writer spends years creating a book; then the copyright date and the market determines its shelf life....It’s a crazy system, and one that works for the six major publishing houses only.
The fact of the matter, particular for small presses that do not have $50,000-$100,000 to spend on a national ad campaign, is that our back list is our lifeline. We can find new, untapped markets for our books years after the copyright date.
Okay...I have a bone to pick with Tolerance. My snit with the word began a few years back when I received several Teach Tolerance stickers. I've never quite understood why anyone wants to be tolerated? Why teach tolerance? Why not Teach Understanding?