March 10, 2011 — -- Social networking websites such as Facebook have forever changed the way society communicates and shares, but they have also become devastating new weapons in the arsenal of schoolyard bullies.
Unfortunately, it took tragedies such as the suicides of middle-schoolers Ryan Halligan and Megan Meier to bring the issue into the public eye. And yet only six states have enacted anti-bullying laws that include the term cyber-bullying.
John Halligan and Tina Meier, the parents of Ryan and Megan respectively, now travel around the country educating people about cyber bullying.
On a recent day at Eros Cafe in Rutherford, N.J., a table of teenage girls are at a laptop, writing on a fellow classmate's Facebook page, posting comments and recording videos. But on a closer listen, it's apparent that these girls are anything but friendly.
"No, I don't think I've ever seen anything more disgusting. I would die if I was that ugly," says one.
Is this just another case of "kids being kids," or something much worse?
"Guys, did you see her crying in the bathroom the other day when we were making fun of her? It was hilarious," another says as cafe patrons watch, visibly upset by what's going on.
What these customers don't know is that these "mean girls" are actually actresses, and the cafe is rigged with hidden cameras, all part of a "What Would You Do?" scenario. The Facebook page is not real -- it was created by us.
But the tone quickly evolves from hurtful comments, to public humiliation. One actress tells the others, "Did I tell you what I did the other day? We were in gym class in the locker room and she was wearing granny panties…I got a picture of it!"
"Send that to her Facebook!" another excitedly adds.
After nearly 15 minutes, no one has approached the girls directly, mostly giving dirty looks and shooting daggers. One man finally leans over and tells the girls to quiet down. "Excuse me, excuse me. You guys are a little loud. But, I was just wondering […] I was just hoping that you could keep it down a little bit. OK? "
It's not until our actresses decide to include cafe patrons in a poll that people step in and tackle the real issue. The "terrible teens" record a video saying, "Hey Janis, we're at this restaurant. We're just gonna take this ugly poll. We just want you to know that we're not the only ones that think you're ugly. We're gonna ask some unbiased opinions. "
They turn to a nearby table to get people's opinions of Janis, but get a little more than they asked for in return.
"You are fortunate because you are born that way. And you have no right to pass any judgment on anybody else, or say such hurtful words," one woman tells them. "If the tables were turned and that was happening to you, you'd understand. You're old enough now to put yourself in somebody else's shoes. Those are some terrible, horrible things you're saying."
The girls' next attempt yields very different results. They approach an older gentleman sitting at a table in the cafe.
"Just say, 'Hi Janis, you're really ugly,'" the girls say.
"Isn't that terrible?" he asks.
"No, all the girls do it. It's a joke," one of our actresses says.
"Hi, Janis. How are you? You're really ugly," he finally says to the camera.
He later tells us that he was unsure about the whole situation, and actually thought that the girls might be friends with Janis.
For more information on bullying and cyber bullying check out these web sites: