On videotape, Dara shares how cyber bullying has changed her life."There are times when it makes me cry. My cyber bullies are five girls and two boys. They cyber bully me at school, on the Internet, pretty much wherever I go. There's a group called Dara Haters. They call me the B word, they call me the S word. They say I'm ugly, I'm gay, I'm fat. They threaten to kill me," she reveals, her voice quavering. "Cyber bullying has changed me. I was excited before, happy all the time. Now, I'm sad. If the bullies stop, it would be much better, and I could be happy again."
Fearful of Internet Foes
"Hi, Dr. Phil. I really need your help. I have a 12-year-old daughter who has been a target of cyber bullying, severe cyber bullying," says Toni on videotape. "A group of five girls said some of the most horrible comments you can imagine. One has even said she would kill [my daughter] and told my daughter that she should kill herself. One girl has even gone so far as to say she will not stop until my daughter is dead, because that's what she wants the most, and she's serious."
Toni says she doesn't know where to turn. "I am scared, more afraid than I have been in my life. I am angry, frustrated. We have to stop it today. Not one more child should commit suicide from cyber bullying. They are killing people with those devices, and they are not going to get my daughter."
[AD]Toni joins Dr. Phil in the studio. He runs down a list of comments made about her daughter, Dara. "â€˜If I was you, I would kill myself.' 'Run away, jump off of a cliff.' In response to a question about what would Dara eat for the rest of her life, if she had to pick one thing, they inserted a boy's name there, obviously, making a sexual reference," he reads. "'If she was the last person on earth with you, what would you do?' 'First, I would kill her, then I would call for the heavens to let all of my best friends come back alive' â€¦ â€˜I will kill you. You should kill yourself.'"
Dr. Phil faces the camera, addressing his viewers. "We've buried enough children; we've ruined enough childhoods. Technology is great, but it has a dark side," he says.
Turning back to Toni, Dr. Phil says, "At what age was your daughter on the Internet? What age was she signing up for Facebook, and MySpace and these different social networking sites?"
"In fourth grade, the first thing she had was an AIM messaging," she replies.
"How old?" Dr. Phil probes.
"Ten," Toni answers. "Fifth grade was MySpace."
[AD]"These [social networking sites] have age limits, so you or she had to lie to get on there," Dr. Phil points out.
"I apologize, because I didn't know that, because I am not a computer savvy person."
"That's part of the problem. We, as parents, aren't as literate about this as other people," Dr. Phil says. "There are age limits there, and they should not be on those social networking sites for exactly these reasons."
"I agree 100 percent," Toni says.
Dr. Phil sits on the stage in front of Dara. Her face is not shown on camera.
"What's the impact of this on you?" he asks the tween. "Does it hurt?"
"Yeah," she replies.
"What do you say to yourself after you read these things and see what people are saying about you?" Dr. Phil inquires.
[AD]"It makes me think worse of myself," she replies.
"People who do this kind of thing to another person, there is one of two things going on with them: They're either seriously disturbed, or they just don't get it. They just don't have what we call empathy, which is the ability to stand in someone else's shoes and understand how they must be feeling."
Dr. Phil stresses to Dara that the bullying has nothing to do with her. "All of this anger, all of these mean things, they come from the inside out," he says. "This isn't your fault. There's nothing wrong with you. You're not inferior in some way."
Dr. Phil introduces Parry Aftab, the executive director and founder of StopCyberbullying.org.
Parry explains the three steps kids can take if they're being bullied. "First is, Stop, Block and Tell. Stop, don't answer back, block the bully or the message, and tell a trusted adult " your mom, someone else, a teacher at school."
[AD]"The worst thing you can do, and the worst thing any of you can do out there, is isolate," Dr. Phil warns. "Sometimes you feel ashamed. You don't want your mom to know that everybody doesn't love you, everybody doesn't think you're wonderful. Have you thought that?"
"Yeah," Dara replies.
"The world is full of friends: Your mom, your sister, me, Parry, others that â€¦ think it's horrible for people to do that to you," Dr. Phil encourages the tween.