COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – Bullying on the internet has become a serious issue, especially among young people. One man has dedicated his life to end cyber-bullying after tragically losing his son.
Students at Immanuel Center for Christian Education sat quietly as John Halligan told them about his son Ryan, who took his own life after being bullied for years in middle school.
“You know one kid was starting to spread rumors that he was gay and he tried to approach some girl online to establish a relationship and she pretended to like him online. Before we knew all of this, things unraveled pretty quickly for him and tragically, he made the decision to kill himself on October 7, 2003,” says Halligan.
After his son’s death, Halligan worked to have two laws for bullying and suicide prevention passed in the state of Vermont. Halligan says that 49 of the 50 states now have some type of legislation regarding bullying. High school senior Nicole Sparks says bullying is wide-spread and can be devastating.
“I have seen other people be bullied and I just have to say it’s something that does not need to happen. I mean there’s no basis for bullying someone and it just tears down another person and makes them feel worthless and no one should fee that way,” says Sparks.
Just this month, California teen Audrie Pott committed suicide after photos of her being sexually assaulted after a night of underage drinking were spread on the internet.
“Technology’s got a good side and a bad side to it. Unfortunately, the bad side is that there is so much more technology now than there was 10 years ago. So the kids have a lot more opportunities,” says Halligan.
Halligan has told the story of his son’s life and death in 850 schools throughout the US, Canada and Mexico. He says there is no simple solution to end cyber-bullying but managing online access is key.
“I think the students need to get an education from the very early years about how not to be a bystander, how to stand up to people like this. But the parents need an education too. I think a lot of parents are making the mistake that they’re letting their kids have access to things too early without a lot of thought being put into it. Are they mature enough? Did they really need this at this point in their life?,” says Halligan.
Halligan also set up a website in his son’s honor, Ryan’s-story dot org, to bring awareness to the dangers of cyber-bullying.
John Halligan also spoke to parents and teachers about bullying at MUW Thursday night.