It is easy for people to create fake online profiles and say or do whatever they want as a cyberbully. They often don’t think through the possible consequences of their actions. Today’s guest is Tina Meier. Tina is the Executive Director of The Megan Meier Foundation. Her life was forever changed on October 16, 2006 when Tina’s 13-year-old daughter Megan Taylor Meier took her own life after being cyberbullied by an adult neighbor posing as a fictitious boy named Josh Evans. Her belief is that if there is even just one child that struggles with bullying, cyberbullying, or self-harm, that is one too many and we must be there to help and support them.“At the end of the day, you want your child to come to you in a time of crisis.” - Tina Meier Click To Tweet
- [1:08] – Megan struggled with self-worth and self-esteem. Tina shares Megan’s story of meeting a boy on MySpace.
- [3:50] – The things that were being said online were not true and Megan began defending herself. She felt like her mother was not on her side.
- [4:52] – Megan took her own life.
- [5:45] – After Megan’s passing, the boy’s MySpace account was deleted. It turned out that it was a fake account created by the neighbor.
- [7:03] – It is hard to fathom that an adult was behind this, however Tina does not believe that Megan would take her own life.
- [8:27] – The FBI investigated and determined who was behind the fake account.
- [9:50] – The court case was a first of its kind and Tina explains the process and results.
- [11:15] – Tina took her focus to beginning the Megan Meier Foundation to help other kids.
- [13:34] – In the early 2000s, there were really no restrictions or laws in place to help protect people.
- [16:02] – When your child is young, talk to them about the rules and make sure they understand.
- [17:32] – For adolescents, share stories like Megan’s story.
- [19:20] – Who will your child feel comfortable coming to in a time of crisis?
- [20:15] – Be aware of behavior changes.
- [21:21] – Check in with teachers and school staff to see if behavior changes take place at school, too.
- [23:24] – Listen to your child and validate their feelings.
- [24:45] – There’s the concern of the other party knowing you’ve taken a screenshot. Tina advises getting another device and blocking them.
- [26:12] – Kids are smart and don’t want to see their parents upset so they pretend to be okay.
- [27:18] – If your child has expressed thoughts of self-harm, stay calm.
- [29:17] – When they’re young, parents tend to want to fix everything for them and protect them.
- [31:40] – Technology has made things easier for kids to create fake accounts. Schools can only do so much.
- [33:31] – Bullying and cyberbullying are so complex because there are no quick fixes.
- [35:30] – Learn social media platforms to see how kids are interacting on them. Tina shares several helpful links.
- [37:31] – Some parents feel like they need to hack into their child’s social media account, but Tina explains that all you are doing is panicking.
- [39:31] – As a parent, you will make mistakes.
- [40:57] – The Megan Meier Foundation has tons of resources and their support does not cost anything.
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You have an incredible story that normally I'd ask my guests to give their background on, their expertise, and whatnot. Your situation is a little bit different, so I'd love for you to just start off by telling your story here.
Sure. The story would take a good 35-40 minutes to normally just tell. But to give everybody an overview, my daughter Megan was this amazing 13-year-old girl who had struggled early on with depression and attention deficit disorder, and she was bullied. Megan was not a tiny petite girl and she struggled with that self-worth, and self-esteem part, so she was bullied quite a bit.
We switched schools in the eighth grade. Megan wanted social media like every child wanted. Back then, it was MySpace. Some of the parents today will remember they probably had a MySpace account. It was what was new and big back then. But Megan, I let her create the account. I had a lot of restrictions and rules in place.
Megan befriended a boy. She was doing really well in her new school, and started a volleyball team, and just really a happy kid now. She befriended this boy who she thought was cute. I, of course, monitored it. I'm like, “Do you know who he is?” We went through all of that, where I said, “Don't give out your address and what school you go to. You don't know who these people are.”
There are some people that will say, “Well, why in the world would you let your daughter add somebody that she doesn't know? That makes no sense.” In our house, it's our rules, our-way-or-the-highway type thing. I also knew Megan and I knew that we could try to be that restrictive, but all they have to do is walk outside of the doors of our house and go to a neighbor's to the school to a library. I knew my kid was going to try to figure out a way, so I wanted to at least monitor her.
Megan started talking to this boy for five weeks back and forth. The messages turned mean one night, October 15th, 2006. The next day, Megan came home from school. I had to leave pretty quickly to take my other daughter to the orthodontist. Megan did not sign off of MySpace when I told her to.
Later on that night, I came home and she was crying at the computer. Messages started going back and forth between this boy and Megan, and then two other girls got involved. At the end, I was looking at these messages and I said, “Megan, come on. If you would have signed off when I told you to…because you've dealt with this differently.” I said, “Meg, you're none of these horrible things that they're saying about you.”
The things that went out were, “Megan Meier's a fat ass, Megan Meier's a whore.” Those were not the nicest things. But then I saw my daughter now defending herself and going after them. “I'm not this, you're that.” I was like, “Meg, come on. We've talked about this.” She said, “You're supposed to be my mom. You're supposed to be on my side.” And she ran upstairs to her room.
I went into the kitchen. I was talking to her dad. Probably 20 minutes later, I just had a horrible feeling that ran through my entire body. I ran upstairs, opened the door, and found Megan hanging in her closet.
We called 911. The paramedics arrived and did get her to start breathing again. Transported her to Children's Hospital in St. Louis. But 24 hours later, Megan passed away. Even though it's been this many years, there are days that I feel like I'm not talking about my kid. It's kind of like this other person. Then there are days that it feels like it just happened.There are days that I feel like I'm not talking about my kid. It's kind of like this other person. -Tina Meier Click To Tweet
The reason I still talk about this and tell the story is not to put fear in parents' minds or scare them, but really to be able to hear what's happening and how can we learn from it. Never in a million years did I think my daughter was going to take her own life, let alone one floor up and 20 minutes later.
We were trying to grasp why, and how, and what happened. There was no note. We did go back and I started looking at the boy’s account that she had been friends with. It was deleted, almost all the way gone the next day after Megan passed away.
Move forward six weeks. We eventually found out that that boy that Megan had been talking to was actually a fake account created by a mom, Lori Drew, who lived four houses down the street at the time. It was her daughter, Sarah, who was Megan, the same age and another 18-year-old girl.
These three created this account. The mom was instrumental in it because the mom heard that Megan had called her daughter a lesbian. My daughter was not perfect in any way, shape, or form. But I was the type of mom that if you would have said, “Hey, listen, I heard that Megan said this where it really hurt my daughter,” I would have sat Megan down and said, “Come on, are you saying this? You know how words hurt.”
You don't have to be friends, but it doesn't mean that you need to be negative, or mean, or cruel. Don't focus on that, focus on others, but we didn't get that chance to be able to have that talk.
This family, I think one of the reasons that Megan's story still, even today, is so fascinating by people is because it's hard to think or fathom that an adult would be behind this, having fun with her 14-year-old daughter and this other 18-year-old girl, and acting like a teenage pathetic kid is what she did.
I don't believe that they thought Megan was going to take her own life. I believe that the mom thought, “Well, her daughter's not going to be nice to my kid, then guess what? I'm going to show her.” There was a lot behind the stuff that we found out that the mom was like, “Let's have her go up to the mall, and jump out, and laugh at her. Let's do this.”
When I travel and speak to individuals, kids, students, I talk about that they didn't have that intent. But the reality is that it happened. When you say things, create fake accounts, and you do this online, you don't know what somebody's feeling on the other side of the screen.I talk about that they didn't have that intent. But the reality is that it happened. -Tina Meier Click To Tweet
After we found out they were involved, there are not really words to describe the anger, the vengeance, the sadness that was felt. But we did go speak to an attorney. We did get the FBI involved. The FBI did investigate.
The FBI was able to confirm and trace all of the messages going back and forth between our house was also going into Lori Drew's house, one night that Lori Drew and Sarah gave the password out to a girl across the street. Other than that, it was between them.
There are no laws in the state of Missouri. We did get the laws changed back in 2008—the Senate Bill 18 on the State of Missouri—but then that was kind of it. It was kind of like, “OK, now what?”
I got a call from the US Attorney's Office in Los Angeles. They said that the federal grand jury indicted Lori Drew on four counts. I had no clue about any of this happening. They don't tell you about it.
We did go to a federal trial. The reason Los Angeles was because they heard about the story and that nothing was done. They knew that MySpace's headquarters were based in Los Angeles. They were able to take this case and make it the United States versus Lori Drew.
That case was the first of its kind. There were a lot of concerns with freedom of speech, first amendment rights, and the ACLU getting involved. They wanted to make sure that there was not this big landmark case that was going to happen and all of a sudden, it was going to restrict speech online.
The case did go through trial. The jury found Lori Drew guilty on three counts, deadlocked on the fourth. Then in 2009, the judge ultimately overturned the case and stated that Lori Drew, it would be unconstitutional to convict her, that other people lie on social media, and lie about their age, their names. So they weren't going to charge her.
I pretty much knew at that point in time that she was not going to be charged. I really made peace with it. Not peace in a way of I was done, but peace in a way of I had to let that piece go to focus on the foundation 110% because, really, to me, at that point, we made a statement.
Now we knew that laws were getting changed in different states. Schools were changing their policies within their schools. Parents were talking to their kids. We knew that it was creating a lot of that positive piece.
To take it any further, it was not going to be beneficial. I really focused then and took all my energy to the foundation and started the Megan Meier Foundation in December of 2007.
It was kind of that shift from vengeance or retaliation to, “OK, how can we prevent this from happening to other kids?”
Yeah, it was. In the beginning, it was vengeance mixed with this deep sadness. It went back and forth because Megan didn't even have a clue that this was happening to them, that vengeance of, “How could you do this? You sick people came to Megan's wake and funeral. You invited us to your daughter's birthday party to sit there and watch us in deep grief and sadness, which was three days after Megan's birthday.”
They did all of these things to really kind of come back to the scene of the crime, and watch and enjoy seeing that other person in pain. It was kind of like, “Look what we were able to do.”
Six weeks later, when we realized all of the things that they did, they asked us to store Christmas presents for their kids for Christmas in our garage, which I did. That's when that vengeance of like, you wanted to take what they made you feel and you wanted them to feel it. That's what you wanted. But then it went to justice and then from justice, it went to making a difference.
I'm glad that you got to a place away from the vengeance because that ultimately never leads anywhere good. Then you go to a place of like, “OK, how can I make a difference in other people's lives in a positive way?”
Right. I just didn't want another parent standing here. I didn't realize this was my path. It was really when the story came out that we started hearing from parents, students, and educators. We started hearing what they were going through. Then it was kind of like, “OK, so we have to keep talking about this. Something has to be done.
In those early conversations with other parents and educators, was there that kind of, “There are no laws in the books that are going to help us,” kind of that sense of helplessness? “How do we tackle this?”
I think back then, it was kind of like, “Can we hold social media companies liable? Is there a way to make it more restrictive so that parents would know that people couldn't create fake accounts?” That was still pretty naive back then.
When you realize that, “OK, that's not it,” and then we need to get laws on the books because the Internet and technology was growing so fast that there were no laws. Then it was, “Yes, let's get the laws in place.” Then it was school policies in place. Then you realize that you can have laws in place and you can have school policies in place.
Especially when you're talking about cyberbullying and using technology, now you have to be able to prove who was behind the screen. What was the intent? Now you have all these laws and you're kind of like, “Well, the prosecutor is not going to be able to prosecute that case because it took the police department three months to subpoena the records to get all the data.”
By the time they got all of that, the kids switched and went to a different school. It's all of these things that then you realize that, yes, while laws and policies are important and they need to be reviewed and updated, it's this awareness and education of talking about real stories, real situations, to get kids to understand and empathy pieces of what's going on, what is their role, and what do they need when they're struggling.
That's where we've really realized that it has to be all of it, but definitely speaking to students, and working with them, really getting them empowered, and engaged to understand that this is not the way that they want to live. How do we work on that?
Let's talk about some of the awareness and prevention. I know you're coming predominantly from the perspective of parents. What should parents be? I guess we're going to look at this two ways of what should parents of kids be looking for in terms of their kids being cyber-bullied, as well as, “Is my kid actually perpetrating this, and what should I do?”
One, we always talk about if you have a chance and your child is young. You're just going to start introducing them to whether it's their own iPad or whether it's their own cell phone. It's really sitting down and talking to them openly and honestly about this is what we're doing and writing it down.
“We're going to put a password on it,” or “You're only going to get it during these times,” or “We're putting it up at whatever their bedtime is.” “At 9:00 PM, it stays with us.” It's really important to really have an understanding—if you want to call it an understanding contract or whatever you want to call it—where both parties sit down and really talk about what is reasonable and then you post it up, like, this is where it's at.
The hope is that the more restrictive you are in the beginning, just making sure that they're safe. If there are problems, they can come to you. The hope is that we can start releasing that a little bit. As they get into high school, have some more trust because if they go off to college at 18 and you have been locked down the entire time, it's going to be really hard for most parents because kids are basically born with a cell phone from the womb now.
It's really hard to figure out where to set those boundaries at. But if you're dealing with a teen right now, it's going to be almost impossible to walk in and grab their phones and start panicking. What we talk about doing is if they're sixth grade and up, sharing a story like Megan's story, going on the website, looking at one of the videos, and really just say, “Hey, listen, I was listening to the radio today and man, have you heard about this story?”
I always say kind of play dumb. What I mean by it is if you go to them, and you say, “Hey, listen, I need you to listen to this story. This is why I'm so strict with you. Do you understand why?” They're going to be like, “Seriously?”
But if you say, “Hey, have you ever heard of it? I heard the story and I thought I heard of it before. It is why I'm kind of concerned, but it may be interesting for you to hear about it.” Then the hope is then to be able to say, “What would you need if you were ever struggling like that? Or do you feel that you could really come to me? Or are you worried that we might ground you or take your phone away?”
It's trying to really open up and talk to them, and have those engaging conversations with them. Because ultimately, at the end of the day, you want them to be able to come to you when there's a time of crisis or something that they're going through. If you're talking to them and maybe you don't have the best relationship right now, sometimes that happened to these teen years.You want them to be able to come to you when there's a time of crisis or something that they're going through. -Tina Meier Click To Tweet
None of us were ever teens who didn't want to talk to our parents. That never happens.
Oh yeah. I've gone through it myself. Then to say, “Listen, if there was an emergency and I wasn't available, or your grandma or grandpa, would it be? Or is it somebody from church? Is it a coach? Is it a neighbor? In that period of time, who would you want to talk to?”
It's really kind of thinking about it almost like if we're adults and we get into a car accident. What do we do? You panic and you instantly go grab your insurance card because it's like, “Wait a minute, who's my agent? Who do I call? What do I do?”
We want to be able to give them that. Write it out. Have them have it in their bedroom. Have them in their backpack, in the kitchen somewhere. That way, give them some options.
I just got a call from a parent yesterday who has a 16-year-old child. The parent is really scared. Why? Because they keep hearing about these stories, reading about Megan's story, and they're isolated. “They're just going to their room. They will not come out and talk to me now. They have the iPad stuck to their face all day online talking to people and not wanting to go to school, grades dropping, not taking care of hygiene as well.” You start seeing some of these behavior changes.
Definitely, you can go try to grab that iPad away, but it's not going to change the fact that there's something that is going on. What I always suggest is certainly talk to them to be able to see. They may tell you the truth and they may not tell you the truth, but take them to the primary care doctor or pediatrician. Talk to them about some concerns and some changes that I'm seeing.
Certainly, email the school and the teachers to be able to say, “Hey, listen, can you just look or observe for a week while they are in class? Can you let me know if you're seeing that they are socially not engaging with other people or they're not turning in homework so I can get really an idea?”
You don't have to go in and blast the whole school, but that way at the end of the week with the principal saying, “I'd really like to be able to see what all of the different teachers are saying so we can see what's going on.” If they say, “You know what, the pediatrician says, I think that maybe they need to be talking to a psychiatrist, they may have some signs of depression. Or there may be some other things, but we need to get them evaluated.”
Please, do not feel like you're a failure as a parent. Because your child is maybe struggling, does not mean you're a failure. It just means that we want to go get them evaluated and then you have a choice of whether you want to do therapy, natural vitamins, or different things that you want to do, or medication.Because your child is maybe struggling, does not mean you're a failure. -Tina Meier Click To Tweet
At the end of the day, once you get those things in place, you can start working on really the things online, cyberbullying, and all of that. But the biggest thing is if it's any concern with their mental health, their safety, you have to be able to address that first. It's what I was trying to get across to that parent because they kept saying, “Please, I just need them to know how serious this is.”
If you can't even engage them in a regular conversation or beg them to get out of bed in the morning to get dressed, if you don't address the things first where you're seeing there are some mental health concerns, you're not going to be able to push forward. That is really a hard place.
Say that your kid doesn't have any of that, but all of a sudden, they panic and somebody's created an account about them or saying horrible things about them online, and they're hysterical. As a parent, take a deep breath. You want to listen to them and validate them. Listening to them does not mean that you approve of everything that they're saying. It does not mean validating them that you are validating their behaviors or actions. All you're doing is listening to them, validating their feelings.
Your feelings may be completely different. But once you do that and you say, “I hear that you're saying this, I hear that you're upset,” or “I hear that you're embarrassed,” then you can be able to say, “How can I help you? What can I do?”
Now you as the parent may say, “Listen, you're the one that stirred this up, you're the one that started this, or if you wouldn't have done this, it wouldn't have been that way.” It won't do anything but cause those arguments. Believe me, as a parent, I've been there. I've done it a million times. By listening and validating, both of you will be calmer and then you can really try to work on it.
Then we talk about, “OK, so let's think about it. If it's coming to you, then let's go ahead and get screenshots.” On certain accounts like Snapchat and whether it's Instagram or TikTok, I don't care if it's Twitter, I don't care what they're on, there's always that concern that if they screenshot it that the other person knows that they've done it. So get a different device. It's all you've got to do.
Get your cell phone. Take a screenshot that way, a video that way, so that you have it and then be able to, once you have all that, block that person. Then contact and report it to the internet service provider.
If it's somebody that you know, we don't suggest reaching out to the other parent or other parents. It typically does not go well in any way, shape, or form because their children are going to tell them what they want them to believe. And parents always want to believe their own kids.
It is where you screenshot it, you keep that evidence. If it's at school, then you can go and take that to school and say, “Listen, I'm concerned.” Maybe it's happening during the school day or after school, and kind of handle it that way.
If there's ever a threat to a physical person, to them self-harming themselves, or a threat to hurt somebody at a school or a building, you always take a screenshot of it. You contact the police, because again, in our world, we don't know.
Unfortunately, you have to take those things seriously.
You do. Sometimes people think, “Oh, it's just a kid blowing up smoke.” Let's hope 99% of the time it is, but we know the tragedy. So we definitely want to do that. Then if your kid is really struggling, maybe talk to a counselor.
The one thing that I have learned about working with kids for the past 14 years is that kids are smarter than we think. Most of the time, they are. We think that they don't care, but the reality is that they don't want to tell us as parents because they worry that dad's struggling with his job. “I don't want to put more pressure on him. Mom is having a really bad day, or maybe mom doesn't feel good,” or whatever it may be.
I've heard so many things where they're like, “I can't do that to my parents.” They don't want to see us upset, cry, or go running into the school. They're like, “Everything's fine, everything's good.” We really want to be able to give them an outlet, whatever that may be.
If your child has ever talked about suicide or self-harm, it is very important to be very clear and open. If you skirt around the issue or dance around it, they're going to know that you're uncomfortable and they will not come to you for help because they're like, “Mom can't handle it or dad can't handle this.” If they say, “I've had thoughts of killing myself,” then you need to be able to take a deep breath and say, “That's heavy, you know, thank you for sharing that with me.”
You may have tears in your eyes. You may be shaking and say to them, “You know, I am shaking, but I can handle this. We’re going to work on this together.” Then that's when you would reach out to your pediatrician or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which down the road is going to be having a number where they're going to change it to 988, which will make it a little bit easier instead of dialing 911 for other emergencies. This will be strictly for mental health concerns and safety concerns. Definitely, don't take that just for granted. We want to get them the help and get them the support that they're going to need.
A lot of this sounds to me like this is something we need to be working on from a very young age with our kids. Not necessarily cyberbullying, but really learning how to communicate and connect with our kids. At the point when there is something significant going on in their life, you've already kind of built those pathways of having those conversations. As opposed to, “I'm just now getting involved in your life because something's going on,” as opposed to, “I've been involved in your life the entire way.”
I throw myself under the bus all the time as a parent because we do make mistakes. I loved my children as much as any parent could love their child. I was doing the best that I could do and I thought I was doing the right thing. But I think when they're so young, we are in control of every aspect of their life. We fix everything for them. We do everything for them. We don't sit there and ask them, “Well, what do you need?” No, it's instantly automatic. “You need this. OK, we're going to fix this.”
You need to eat your vegetables.
Right, and then they start getting a little bit older and now we have technology so much earlier. That instant thing of a parent is we're going to immediately protect them. We're going to surround them and protect them. It's either these are the rules. “It's because I said so; stop questioning me.”
That then, it's very hard for us because it's not that we're allowing them to take over our whole life. It's just thinking about communicating with them in a different way, a different approach, to get them to communicate with us. That's it.
It's not letting them do whatever the heck they want to do. It's just not. You say, “My way or the highway,” and that's when they clam up. They walk back and they're like, “Forget it. They don't get us.”
I know when I was a kid, it was when these sorts of things would happen. Boys will be boys, girls will be girls. Schools, I hate to say, didn't take these things seriously, but kind of didn't take them maybe as seriously as they do today. Are you seeing a shift in the way that schools are interacting with the kids with respect to how they're using social media, how they're interacting, and not just on campus?
It's hard. I think that the majority of schools care. They do want the kids to be able to come to school, and learn, and feel safe there. But the reality is the way that kids are doing it, that technology is so easy for them to be able to do it with fake accounts in different ways, that schools cannot be private eye investigators. A lot of times, by the time that schools find out about it, now it has been this web of either group chat, or an anonymous account or things have been going around. And now they've got all of these pieces sitting there.
Now they're trying to figure out, first of all, you don't know if the pieces that you're getting, the screenshots, are everything or not because schools can't go investigate it. Schools then have to, if it's something that is deemed as, there's a threat or any of that, they're going to get the school resource officer involved.
If it's happening on school grounds during the school day or school on technology, or it substantially or materially disrupts that learning environment, then the schools can step in, intervene, and look at it. But again, they cannot apply any type of criminal charges. They're only going to be able to look at and if they see that this account is coming from student A to student B, it's much easier. It's usually not like that.
That's where, a lot of times, parents get really frustrated, students get frustrated, but the reality is, they would need to have more than a full-time person there that could instantly trace IP addresses and get subpoenas on an instant to be able to do it, and they just can't.
I think the reality is that's so much more than we expect or empower our schools to do.
Right. We want the schools and the parents that, when this situation has happened and their child does not want to go to school, they're struggling, grades are dropping, they're not on cheer, or football, or soccer, or an academic club any longer, and the parent sees them kind of spiraling down, they instantly want that school to do something. You do something.
Schools are limited. They just really are limited in what they can do. That's where they go through those policies and procedures. If they can prove that student A was behind it, then they can apply those disciplinary measures, but it has to be repeated.
A lot of times, that first time is they talk to that student, talk to the parents. Then the problem is that now it may not happen online. Now it may be those subtle things when they're walking through the hallway. It may be their friends calling their kid names underneath their breath.
Now it's so hard because it's really happening to that kid. But parents see it happening now, this is happening in class, it's happening here, and it really gets so big. That's why bullying and cyberbullying still are so complex because it's not a quick fix in any way, shape, or form. And I wished it was.
There are lie detector tests sitting in every principal's office or teacher's office. They could have the kids put their hands down—“Did you do this?” Maybe life would be better, but that's not going to ever happen.
Those are all “wouldn't it be nice if…,” but they're not going to be reality. In some sense, do we want our kids hooked up to a lie detector 24/7? I don't think we want to know what our kids are lying to us about in some sense.
It is hard. I think it's why, like you said in the beginning, that if we can have from early on, even if you're just starting right now, today, having these types of conversations but using real stories because if you don't focus it on them, you focus it on somebody else, it's much easier to be able to have that conversation. I think those are things, those opportune times, to talk to them, to discuss with them is really, really important that they know that you are going to be there for them.
Do you also recommend that—maybe this could be more a little complicated than not—the parents have a basic understanding of what is Snapchat? How does it work? What is TikTok? How does it work?
Even though they may not be a TikTok star themselves, they've at least seen the platform, seen how it works. So when they hear stuff, they can actually have a basis of like, “OK, I know what that means. I know how kids interact on these platforms.”
Oh, absolutely. You can go onto YouTube and do TikTok for dummies. You can do that. But if you really want, Common Sense Media is a really good website for parents to research a lot of different things on there. I think it's called Protect Your Eyes. Protect Your Eyes is another one that will give a lot of information on the different platforms and what's good and what's not good. Cyberbully.us is another great one.Common Sense Media is a really good website for parents to research a lot of different things on there. -Tina Meier Click To Tweet
It's kind of like at the age of 10, 11, now, they think we're dumb until about maybe 20, especially with technology. It doesn't mean you have to be. The one thing I did watch was something the other day on TikTok that did say this teacher asked the seventh-grade kids, “What's the most annoying thing that your parents do?” It was almost all on social media. Taking selfies, posting online, it's so embarrassing, telling their whole life over on social media.
They get a little creeped out when parents are really too engaged in it. But it is nice that they say, “The Snapchat disappeared, the Snap disappeared, or this happened,” and you're like, “What, Snap what?” Then they're not going to talk to you.
Learn the lingo.
Right, a high level. If your kids are younger, there are definitely things that you can put on their account to be able to make sure that you're monitoring it. This parent I talked to the other day wanted to be able to see if they could find a hacker to be able to hack into their kids' accounts.
I am not a hacker. That is not legal. Parents have to do what they have to do or try to find multiple cameras to be able to hide in that child's bedroom. You can get to the point of doing that. But unless they're in that room 24 hours a day, and they walk out, and they go to school, you're not doing anything. You're just really parenting and panicking. The dialogues, the open discussions, the real stories, those things and over time, are much better than that panicking piece.The dialogues, the open discussions, the real stories, those things and over time, are much better than that panicking piece. -Tina Meier Click To Tweet
I really like where you talked about, “I heard this in the news; what do you think about this, or have you seen this sort of thing happen? Is this real?” That type of not saying, “Hey, is this happening to you?” And all of a sudden, all the defenses go up. But is this really going on? It's almost like incredulous to say, “Does this really go on?” And the kids will probably be like, “Oh, yeah, no, I see it all the time.” What?
Yeah, and then that way, you can say, because usually kids still get frustrated when they find out an adult was involved. They still are like, “Are you kidding me?” Using that on Megan's story, just to be able to say, “Did you know a mom was acting like a boy and doing this?” That way, then, then to get them to be able to say, “Are you kidding me?” If you can get them to the screen to pay attention, read, or anything, and you have a little bit of dialogue, that's a win. That's a win in today's world. So it's those little pieces.
As we wrap up here, any parting advice? And then we'll tell people how to get ahold of your organization.
Sure. I think one thing for parents is to realize you're going to make mistakes. I have a lot of mistakes that I've made through the years. There were times that I had shame about it. I can't believe I did this or did that. But the reality was, I was doing the best I could do and I thought at the time.
Sometimes when you learn more, take a deep breath. If you need to go in the car for 10 minutes and scream, go do it. If you need to wait until your child is off school and you talk to everybody that you know about what's going on, do it when they're not in the house because it causes a lot of anxiety for them.
I think giving yourself a little bit of a break, I think little pieces that you can do, you're not going to be able to change this overnight. Little piece is step by step to open up the dialog. But if your child is struggling and you do have to be able to talk to a counselor, please do not feel like it's a failure that you can't make your kid happy, or what is everybody else because we all do that?
Everybody else's life looks great. I'm doing all of these things and I'm still struggling because it's life. Once you make those steps and get them the right help, things can be beautiful. Life can be good. You can have this great relationship, but just try to take a deep breath.
Awesome, and your foundation? How can people get ahold of your foundation? What types of services do you provide?
Anybody from all over the world can call our office. They can visit our website at meganmeierfoundation.org. There are tons of resources there. They can email us.
We don't charge anything. No matter where you live, if you need some support and you need some resources, then we will get your area, and then we will try to find those resources, or support for you, or some guidance.
You can get on the website and there are some videos and just a lot of different statistics and information. If they need anything, anybody can reach out anytime.
That's awesome. Tina, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today.
Thank you so much. It was great.