- Saturday, September 24, 2011, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Sheraton Steamboat Resort, 2200 Village Inn Court, Steamboat Spings, CO
/ Free - $20
Steamboat Springs Tina Meier never expected she would have to stand in front of hundreds of students in schools across the country to tell her story. Nor did she expect a spotlight and a microphone to be part of her lifelong journey.
In front of a projector that beamed a photo of her daughter Megan to the hundreds of Steamboat Springs High School students seated before her Thursday, Meier began to talk about how cyberbullying had changed her life.
She recounted the life and eventual suicide of 13-year-old Megan, who hung herself in her closet in 2006 after she was viciously bullied through comments left on her MySpace profile. It was a tragedy that captured national attention.
Megan thought the messages were coming from a male student in a nearby town who she had never met. But after her death, Megan’s parents discovered the boy’s profile was a fake created and maintained by the mother of one of Megan’s old friends.
“A tragedy sometimes puts you in a place you never expected, and it’s now a completely different life for me,” Meier said before telling students in Steamboat to always think before they click to send a digital message to someone.
Meier, who traveled to Steamboat from St. Louis, said she wasn’t familiar with cyberbullying when her daughter first logged into a social media website as a teenager. Nearly five years after Megan’s suicide, Meier said she’s doing everything she can to help students prevent it.
Steamboat Springs High School Principal Kevin Taulman said Meier’s presentation was important for his students to hear.
“We cannot know everything that these students do online,” Taulman said. “And here at school, there’s only a few (staff members) and a lot of (students).”
He said that at a time when nearly all students maintain Facebook profiles, it’s important for them to know how to respond to and prevent bullying of any kind.
Meier also warned the students about the dangers of sexting and cyberstalking, saying that every message, text or tweet sent out by a student likely cannot be taken back.
Steamboat Springs High School senior Sam Keating said he enjoyed hearing Meier’s story.
“It helped me understand the position people who are bullied are in and how I can play a part in stopping it,” he said. “I have seen cyberbullying on Facebook, but in our high school, I don’t think it is as common, and it usually stops before reaching a dramatic phase. The older I got, the less I saw.”
Meier said she has heard about cases of cyberbullying in places as unexpected as Packwood, Iowa, which she described as a small, rural town where she was surprised to see most students using advanced cellphones.
“The technology these days is becoming so advanced, a lot of parents don’t have any idea of all the things they can do,” she said.
She said students who are the victims of cyberbullying should block aggressors from accessing their social media pages, keep the evidence of it and then talk to a trusted adult about the incident.
“You win nothing by trying to get the last word in these situations,” she said.
Meier spoke later in the afternoon to students in Hayden.
She told the students in Steamboat she’s often asked why she doesn’t cry in front of the large crowds as she vividly recalls the moment she discovered her daughter had committed suicide.
“I have to put her in a different place when I talk about her now,” she said. “If I thought about her as my child and about all of the things we did together, I would cry the entire time because I think about her every single second. I have to talk about her as a different person.”
Meier said she now is committed to promoting the enactment of laws that help prevent cyberbullying.
She will speak again in Steamboat on Saturday as the keynote speaker of the Yampa Valley Community Mental Health Conference at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com