ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

When Internet Pranks Go Bad: Computers as Weapons

Updated on December 26, 2008

Once upon a time, a "practical joke" meant letting loose three pigs in your school after labeling them "1," "2," and "4." That way the teachers would spend all day looking for "3." Hahaha!

With the advent of the internet, one would think that similar things would translate. There have always been two types of practical jokes: the harmless and the harmful, but I don't think many of us anticipated the force that the latter would have when brought online.

On October 16, 2006, Missouri lost a young girl because of an internet prank, and the entire issue came under further scrutiny. The suicide (sometimes called "bullycide") of Megan Meier and those like her has called into question what originally started out as internet "jokes." How can we prevent kids from using computers and the internet as weapons?

What Is Going On?

Chat rooms, e-mail, message boards, MySpace and Facebook comments. There are a hundred ways a teen can be bullied online without a parent noticing. Most parents fool themselves into thinking that they would be able to tell if there were some sort of turmoil within their child as serious as painful bullying or considering suicide.

Don't fool yourself.

Depression can go undetected -- even by the depressed person -- for years. But if a teen is feeling hopeless and hated, the odds of him behaving more rashly than a full-grown adult are much greater.

Some Sad Statistics

What to Do?

What can you do, as a parent? Obviously you can't sit and watch over your teen's shoulder as he peruses the internet and chats with his friends.

  • Don't lie to yourself. Saying, "My child would never do that" doesn't mean that he won't.
  • Try to keep general dialogue open with your teen. I know this is easier said than done, and she might look like she is pushing you away, but to know that even one person would miss her might make her change her mind. Remind her often (and sincerely) that you love her.
  • Put a suicide hotline number on your emergency phone numbers list by the phone (right up there with the police and poison control). Your teen might not want to talk to you about how he's feeling, but a toll-free hotline could talk him out of hurting himself.
  • Watch for the signs. Has your teen lost contact with many of her friends? Does she wear long sleeves on very hot days to cover her arms? Does she spend most of her time in her room, when she used to love the outdoors? Drastic changes, even over several months, can be red flags.

And what about as a friend of someone who might be depressed and/or considering suicide?

  • Try to follow what your friend is doing on the internet. He may not be bullied at school, but public humiliation online can be just as potent.
  • Talk to her. If you're worried, say so. You could even lie, saying that you want to go to the school counselor for yourself, then use the counselor as a mediator. If she seems standoffish or changes the topic, try to bring it up again. You may need to bring this to her parents, as "narc"y as that sounds.
  • Sitting alone in his room on the computer can be a lonely place. And if he feels like other kids are ganging up on him, that will only make the loneliness worse. Bring him outside, include him in more than you think necessary.

New Laws

As each county or state loses a child to "bullycide," they change the rules. "No internet bullying," or "No harrassment or public humiliation." But these laws never make it beyond state borders, if they even make it that far.

How many kids will we have to lose before big lawmakers start listening?

As technology progresses, society and our kids will progress with it. Shouldn't our laws progress with it, too? Aren't the teen years tough enough without adults ignoring a huge facet of a teen's life by leaving him to the internet with no regard for what happens there?

Join HubPages!

You can write a "hub" like this and make money from the advertisements! Just join the HubPages community (it only takes a few seconds), and start writing about whatever moves you. It's that simple!

Do More!

If any of this has rung true with you, this hub should be the least of your research. Did I describe your friend or child? Did I describe you? Either way, there are resources to help you. is an excellent resource on all things related to bullying, depression, and teen suicide. It has some very serious pages and some funny ones, and it's also a tribute to Jared High, who lost his life to suicide in 1998.

If you are feeling depressed -- or, worse, suicidal -- you should speak to someone immediately, even if you don't want to talk about it. Call one of the suicide hotlines, and someone there will happily speak to you. They won't make you talk about anything you don't want to, and they're toll free. Many of the operators there have been exactly where you are or have friends that were. There's really no reason not to call. The two numbers I know of are 1-800-SUICIDE and 1-800-999-9999, but there have got to be tens of them out there.

Know that, no matter what position you are in, there is someone else out there who's been there, too. Take comfort in the fact that you are not alone.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • helenathegreat profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Manhattan


      I am approving your comment only so that I can respond. You are clearly young and very naive and know nothing about psychology. You probably are liked by your peers (or feared) but feel insecure yourself, which is why you feel the need to start "flame wars" with strangers on the internet.

      Suicide is not funny or deserved; it's a serious issue, having nothing to do with "survival of the fittest". I truly pity you that you can't see that yet, and I hope that something terrible doesn't have to happen before you change your mind.

      Also, regarding your survival of the fittest idea... I can remember a certain German leader who believed the same thing in the early middle part of the 20th century. You should think your ideas all the way through before spouting them to people who are more intelligent and experienced than you are.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      this makes me laugh. if she suicide'd over a made up boy, she deserves it. its called survival of the fittest. enjoy the flame war.

    • jGaunt profile image


      10 years ago from London

      The internet can be used for doing good as well as bad things. We just have to trust that more people are out to help than hurt. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't protect yourself.

    • helenathegreat profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Manhattan

      Thanks for the comments, guys. sumosalesman, I do agree that the situation in the video is a little melodramatic, but I think that most teens who consider committing suicide do so for reasons other than a fight with a girlfriend. The ego is a mighty thing, and teasing can chip away at the very base of it, leaving the person feeling absolutely worthless. Parents should certainly contextualize their teen's life for them, especially in a privileged world like the one that exists in so many developed countries, but that is not always enough. They also need to teach their child when to ask for help.

    • sumosalesman profile image


      10 years ago from Somersworth New Hampshire

      Remember, kids, guns don't kill people, snotty girlfriends do!

      I understand teen suicide is at epidemic levels, but they need to learn the world isn't over when their Blackberry gets run over or there's a conversation like the one in the video. If they realize that things can be a lot worse than verbal bullying, and that the people doing it are weak to begin with, I'd think it should give them a fighting chance.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      well, it all goes into teaching your kids to have a backbone. if the world is such a scary place, then prepare them for it. im not saying that bullies are a right of passage or anything, but if its a reality, then why not prepare them for it? this definitely lays with the parent first and foremost. a bully(ies) parent(s) should keep him/her in check by teaching them lessons in humility and respect. the bullied's parents should have tought them to know how to take criticism and bullying. its a sad situation and subject, but its just as sad how often parents fail at such basic life lessons. sorry, thats just my two cents.

    • helenathegreat profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Manhattan

      Thanks, Steph! I had a hard time writing this one because there's so much painful information out there. I'll probably edit and add a bunch of stuff once I catch my breath. :) Thanks for linking to me!

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 

      11 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Very serious, good advice. I'm going to link this one to my article about kids and the internet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)