Cyberbullies:Tess

Cyberbullies:Tess
Dr. Phil checks in with the two families competing in the Ultimate Family Weight Loss Challenge.

"Tess has been harassed and bullied at school endlessly since seventh grade," says Michele of her 14-year-old daughter.

"I asked Tess' teacher was there anything she was doing that was provoking this aggression. The teachers were at a loss."

Tess says the bullying really got bad after she became friends with a popular girl. "There was an argument over a boy. My friend was jealous because he was interested in me. She started spreading rumors," Tess explains. She started receiving mean and aggressive e-mails. "People would instant message me and they would just call me a whore and a sl*t and a skank, and I should go and have a heart attack and just die because nobody wanted me around."


Michele took a transcript of a nasty chat room conversation to the school and two of the students were suspended. "That actually aggravated the situation," she explains. When the girls' parents were called in, they defended their daughters. "The parents said that their kids had the right to free speech."


A congenital heart defect threatened Tess' life as an infant. After many surgeries, she was finally able to live a normal life. "We thought our lives were going to be a lot less stressful," Michele says. "Tess entered middle school and the dream was shattered."

"If you saw me in school, I would be by myself. I felt depressed, alone, betrayed and judged," says Tess. "I wish all the time that I could have somebody to talk to, especially in the hardest moments."


Her cardiologist was concerned about the stress on Tess' heart, so her parents took her out of school. "The hardest part of the ordeal is to watch a beautiful girl be alone," cries Michele.


Dr. Phil arranged for Tess to talk with his son, Jay, author of Life Strategies For Teens. Jay asks Tess how it feels to be

bullied.
"It's very bad," she says. "It's hard to get a good image of yourself when no one else encourages you." She shows Jay an online journal of one of the girls that goes to her school, where she calls Tess a "slut bag whore eighth grader."


"I could tell you everything in the world to make you feel better about the things they're saying, but I don't think that I need to," Jay tells Tess. "You know that you are a good person and that you are a beautiful girl and that you are smart, funny and that none of these things that they are saying are true."


Tess is now homeschooled so she can get an education instead of plot which hallway will be OK for her to walk down. Dr. Phil says, "In a sense she's been driven out of her school." Her parents looked into sending her to a neighboring school, but the lies and rumors had been spread there.


Dr. Phil reads off some of the e-mails that Tess has been receiving.

Tess knows the people writing these instant messages and Michele and Philip have talked to the parents. "The parents response was,

'This is a private Internet conversation and it's not really part of school,'" Michele says.


Jay disagrees. "It's called criminal harassment and it's illegal," he explains. "The easiest way to bully somebody is to isolate them. It's to get them off by themselves where they have nobody to defend them, and there's no better way than to get them in their own bedroom, totally by themselves, on the computer."


"The things that we read up there, nobody can deny that these are vile, inappropriate things for children to be saying," Dr. Phil says. He looks to the camera and addresses the parents' of the

girls. "You know who you are. So parents, I invited you to come here and you didn't want to come. I want somebody to tell me why that's OK," Dr. Phil says.

Michele says that the parents responded by saying, "'Oh, [the girls] don't understand what those words mean,'" and the audience laughs.

Dr. Phil introduces Officer Steve DeWarns, a consultant on cyberbullying.


"The cyberbully parents need to take accountability for what their kids are doing online," he suggests. "Parents give their child a computer with Internet access alone up in their bedroom. They're not supervised. They're not monitored. They give them cell phones with Internet access ... If you're going to give these tools, as a parent to your child, you need to take some accountability. Have an acceptable use policy put in place at home. Monitor their use." He also recommends that parents load software on their computers to monitor their child's Internet use.

Dr. Phil addresses Tess. "You're just really cute and attractive and intelligent and I'm sure there are a lot of girls who want to be you," he tells her. "And since they can't, they do what's called

leveling. Leveling is when somebody feels inferior in some way to somebody else. And so what they do is, they either have to inflate their own ego or they try to shoot this person down," he explains. "It's clear to me that you are a threat to these girls. This is a reflection of their insecurity. It's not a reflection of your bad conduct."


Dr. Phil continues. "You have to be willing to say, 'I know I'm a good kid. I'm decent. I'm loving. I'm caring. I'm a nice girl. I know that.' You have to talk to yourself to drown out this sick input from other people. And don't feel alone and don't get isolated."