Ryan Halligan’s photo captures the youthful innocence of hopeful dreams. You can tell this kid was deeply loved by his parents. So much potential, all lost due to bullying.
When eleven year old Tyler Wilson returned to school, he received a number of threats from friends of the bullies who broke his arm. Watching one’s friends get charged by police in youth court should be a “wake up” call. Instead, some bullies simply will not stop.
Bullies did not stop until Ryan Halligan, a 13-year old from Vermont, died by suicide in 2003. He was relentlessly cyber-bullied. One boy started an online rumour that Ryan was gay. Separately, a girl pretended to like Ryan only to then publicly ridicule him for believing her. Ryan told her, “It’s girls like you that make me want to kill myself.” His tragic story was featured in the prominent PBS Frontline documentary, “Growing Up Online.”
When Ryan told an online “friend” that he was ready to take his own life, the boy replied: “The last time i hear u complain? ur finally gonna kill urself?! Its about (blank)-ing time.”
Ryan finished the conversation saying, “You’ll hear about it in the papers tomorrow.”
Ryan was found hanging by his sister. That was 2003.
Ryan’s story illustrates that you do not have to be gay to be a victim of anti-gay harassment. Sadly, it also illustrates that some bullies never stop: after a broken arm in the case of Tyler Wilson; even in death in the case of Ryan. Only days ago, someone visiting a YouTube tribute to Ryan wrote: “What a (blank) (blank)ing world we live in. Men are turning into such (blank)s.” This boy (or man?) was suggesting that boys and men are becoming sissies; that we should toughen up and take it (bullying) like a real man. He went further saying that Ryan killing himself over bullying is “laughable.” This kind of remark is an act of bullying that hurts other vulnerable youth seeking comfort by reading about Ryan’s life.
Parents may be asking: “how can I protect my child?” Ryan’s father may have the best advice: “I clearly made a mistake putting that computer in his room. I allowed the computer to become too much of his life. My son had these online relationships going on that were completely invisible to me.”
John Halligan shares Ryan’s story at schools across America. His message is heartbreaking. We can pray that this loving father’s message will break the hearts of those who bully others. Do not count on it: the online world features a wide range of individuals offering rage, bitterness, judgments, threats and hateful slurs. Make sure you are involved in your child’s online life. Some bullies simply never give up – even when a child dies.
(1) Visit the Ryan Halligan Memorial Website featuring helpful resources.
(2) Watch PBS Frontline’s “Growing Up Online.”
(3) Watch just the “Growing Up Online” segment featuring Ryan’s story.
(4) Watch one of the many YouTube tributes to Ryan Halligan.
(5) Watch this YouTube story of bullies who drove a teen out of town.
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