Just shy of her 14th birthday, Megan Meier took her own life.
This beautiful girl, some think, was driven to hang herself after she was harassed and embarrassed on Myspace.com by a boy she thought was 16 years old.
Messages from the boy to Megan said that the world would be better off without her. But the person behind that boy's profile was Lori Drew, the mother of one of Megan's former friends. A classic case of cyberbullying, a crime that police say is happening more than many parents realize.
“We deal with cyberbullying every week, whether it be texting or sexting these pictures get out and the reverberations and devastations that kids experience,” Internet crimes investigator Lt. Andrew Donofrio says.
“Bullying is everywhere and nobody is immune and if your an adolescent you are going to be experiencing bullying in some form,” says school psychologist Andrew Yeager.
It is something Yeager realized was growing amongst teens, thanks to the technology available to them.
“There are issues that are unique to the internet and cell phones that make it more likely that kids get bullied, the main reason that I'm not face to face so I'm more likely to say things that I wouldn't ordinarily say,” Yeager says.
Lt Joseph Rampolla of the internet crimes division has seen this problem spiral out of control.
“Kids are using technology and they don't understand the power of that technology, a cell phone a camera phone even though it might seem very simple, when a kid has that power in their hand and they take a snapshot of another kid in a compromising position, or take a photo of themselves and they're naked or partially naked it goes beyond that one person or there best friend it goes out to the world,” Rampolla says.
“When you’re attacking someone thru a computer, when you’re attacking someone thru a cell phone you don't see their eyes you don't see the pain in their face,” says filmmaker Dan Fabrizio.
To show students the reality of that pain, psychologist Andy Yeager teamed up with law enforcement and film makers like Fabrizio to make “Sticks and Stones”, a movie about cyberbullying. The film was funded by money seized during criminal investigations, and aims to show the real-life situations some teens find themselves in.
“To save a life and to make people aware of the dangers out there is the best feeling you can have as a film maker,” Rich Delia, executive producer of “Sticks and Stones” says.
“Sticks and Stones” is expected to be shown at schools across the country as part of an educational film series. Educators and counselors at those schools receive additional support material in order to deal with the films graphic content which includes the main character ultimately opting for suicide as a way out, mirroring several real cases across the country.
“It really touches you because at the end it was real sad and I was ready to cry,” says Amber, a high school student, after seeing the film.
“It sends all the messages home, this is how things happen, this is what can happing if you let things get out of hand if you take things too far,” says Keefe, another high school student who saw the film.
“Suicide is rarely triggered by one event,” Yeager.
So while old fashioned bullying still exists on the playground, experts say what is happening in cyberspace can have lasting consequences.