The wisdom of being brave in a cyber-powered world

Monday, February 18th, 2013

CyberParenting Topics on TheFish103.9FM Tuesdays

Lisa Ford Berry, founder of B.R.A.V.E. Society
Photo: Stacey Garrett

Lisa Ford Berry will be doing a reading of her handbook: Be B.R.A.V.E. – Say Something, Do Something, on Tuesday Feb. 26 from 7 9p.m.  at Time Tested Books 1114 21st Street, Sacramento.

In a cyber-powered world respect for the individual is marginalized by the screams of the crowd.  Popular beliefs and anxieties are amplified well beyond anything previous generations experienced during childhood and adolescence.

My friend Lisa Ford Berry of Carmichael, California, knows intimately how the individual is attacked by the bully culture of the crowd in cyber-powered communities (texting and social media). The voice of the crowd also threatens the bystanders who remain silent or pile on for fear of being different and then targeted themselves. The target becomes so isolated it can feel like there is no escape, no hope, no future left, and no point to go on living.

Michael Berry took his own life on his 17th birthday in 2008 in response to intense cyberbullying about a rumor that he was gay, which made him feel like there was no other way out of the isolation and pain. (Photo: courtesy)

In September of 2008, her son Michael committed suicide in the boys’ bathroom on campus in the fall of his junior year at high school. According to his mom, someone had found out that he was saving himself for marriage, and started a rumor that he was gay. The cyberbullying on MySpace and texting was horrendous, incessant and did not seem survivable. The humiliation was so great Michael kept it from his parents. When he reached out to school administration and counselors, there was also a deafening silence. Back in 2008, someone like Michael who was an excellent student, coming from a stable home and was well liked and polite, wasn’t able to sound the alarm to get the basic support he needed at school.

After all, Michael Berry was not an “at risk kid.” (Hence the danger of labels which is a topic for another article).

And yet, the reality is that all kids are at risk. Bullying is learned behavior.

“The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.” Luke 6:40 (NIV)

Cyberbullying is a problem of the peer communities on campuses across our country, and was not really understood then. Since his death and other youth suicides that followed, and the publicity of the bully problem with documentaries like “Bully”,  we have seen cyberbully legislation to update the education codes, but peer abuse remains unabated as a true assault.

Recognizing that our broader culture allows and sometimes excuses this cruelty as a minor problem among children, Berry founded B.R.A.V.E. Society to promote awareness and education about the nature of peer abuse and what to do about it.

To that end, she recently authored a book, Be BRAVE: Say Something; Do Something, to help parents, educators and civic leaders create a better society with our children and confront the bully culture with truth, mercy and resolve.

“True wisdom is knowledge from within. To educate means to draw out from within. True wisdom lies from within and wells up within the individual when given an opportunity to do so.”  –Catherine Ponder

Be B.R.A.V.E. Say Something, Do Something is a compilation of the Berry family experience with the bullying that led to the suicide death of their son, and a handbook for educators and parents to create a better society with children that does not excuse or dismiss peer abuse.

This book chronicles her experience in the days leading up to her son’s death, and the gut wrenching moments that followed after the phone call from the police notifying them their son was in the hospital on life support, injured from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Berry’s book compiles accounts from children who share their stories of being brave and being bullied, and it offers some general guidance for parents to be advocates for children who are experiencing peer abuse.

  • What are the signs of a bully problem with your child?
  • The rights and responsibilities of parents and what steps to take if you have a bully situation that is unabated and threatening your child
  • An overview of the state and federal laws about bullying, how the criminal codes and civil rights laws apply, guidance and resources for schools

Rocky and the Bully: Individual resiliency

Also featured in this book, is a story I wrote about a boy entering the fifth grade and has to confront a bully. It is a story about individual resiliency, empathy and compassion and there are some discussion questions. This story was designed for parents and educators to read and discuss with children.

Read “Rocky and the Bully”: A story to teach children about the hero in each of us.


Order Be B.R.A.V.E. – Say Something, Do Something/$15. All proceeds go to B.R.A.V.E. Society education and awareness of peer abuse and prevention.

Berry will be doing a reading of Be B.R.A.V.E. on Tuesday Feb. 26 from 7 9p.m.  at Time Tested Books 1114 21st Street, Sacramento.



Joanna Jullien
(Photo: Christi Benz)

Joanna Jullien is an author and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She is the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM, Tuesdays.




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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna ( and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.