Cyberbullying tragedy turns to a lesson - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Cyberbullying tragedy turns to a lesson

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WAUSAU (WAOW) -

Dozens gathered at Wausau East High School Monday night to hear a nationally known speaker share his son's story about cyberbullying.

"Well I've been invited to Wausau to share my son's story with both the students and the parents of the community," said John Halligan.

John Halligan and his wife endured a parents' worst nightmare.

"We also didn't know about the online bullying we didn't know about the girl pretending to like him, and that all came to the surface after my son's death and it was a discovery I made on his computer," said Halligan.

In 2003, 13-year old Ryan Halligan committed suicide in his own home.

"Well as a parent as you can imagine this is the worst case scenario, I don't think any parent ever wants to lose a child for any reason but to lose a child to suicide, a lot of baggage goes along with this, and it's a sense of parental failure, it's just these feelings of guilt."

John Halligan says his son Ryan was bullied all throughout middle school. And the name calling spread from the classroom, online.

"I think the challenge we have in today's world is that you have now technology thrown on top of this and yes technology has it's wonderful pluses but there's a lot of negatives and a lot of regards to technology almost like throwing gasoline on fire," said Halligan.

After the tragedy, John quit his job and became a full time motivational speaker. He tries to teach parents about cyberbullying, and how to notice it.

"With the parents they do need an education, there are a lot of parents out there and they're old school like we were," said Halligan.

Bringing John to Wausau is all apart of the "I Am Somebody" grant project. Organizers say cyberbullying is a new trend. And parents need to know about it.

"It is an epidemic and it's become an epidemic because I think technology has enabled kids to start bullying much meaner," said organizer, Sarah Murphy.

From Facebook to chatting sites, Halligan says parents need to monitor the internet to help put a stop to cyberbullying.

"I think it's too often we're being our kids best friend and we're flooding them with all these gadgets," said Halligan.

Eight years later, John says it's not hard to talk about Ryan's story. Because sharing it with the world could help prevent another tragedy.

If you'd like to know more about Ryan's story visit http://www.ryansstory.org. For more information about how to prevent bullying, visit http://www.stopbullying.gov.

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