Tyler Clementi is on my mind. The 18-year-old Rutgers student jumped to his death a few days ago from the George Washington Bridge after being surreptitiously recorded in a romantic encounter by his college roommate, and the sad event has made worldwide news. It’s a hot topic, cyberbullying, and the reality of being made fun of on the internet for the entire world to see is too much for some young people to cope with.

It’s funny – there’s never been a generation more protected from harassment, and schools often take hardline approaches towards bullies. It’s not because people are becoming all that much more tolerant and kind that the mean kids get the evil eye now; it’s a more PC and more litigious world now, administrators know, and a repeat bully is a problem no one wants. Back in the day, expelling bullies was uncommon; you just had to deal one way or the other with the bad kids. Everyone has a story about dealing with a bully, I think, which ends usually in some kind of climactic physical fight, a hard-won truce, avoidance, or endless trouble until graduation. But it ends. Everyone gets older, people move on, and the power hierarchy of the playground or the college dorm is dismantled and rebuilt, over and over.

Things change, is what I would have told Tyler. As bad as this was for you, it wasn’t going to always be that bad, no matter if you felt that every friend, family member, professor, and stranger would have turned against you. What shamed you and why could have been dealt with.

I can’t claim to be able to get inside the mind of someone who is so devastated by the judgment of others that they decide to completely give up on living, over something that to some other college freshman would have dealt with by punching out the roommate or filing a lawsuit. The teenage mind is often more easily overwhelmed by stress, their psyches blown apart over having strangers laugh at them. And what about the kids who set up the webcam to humiliate Tyler? This is seen every single day on TV and YouTube and people love it. It’s no surprise whatsoever that something like this happened. So what can we do about it? You can’t just say STOP THAT YOU GUYS, SETTLE DOWN. There will always be bullies. Always, even though I doubt Tyler’s “pals” here thought that what they were doing was anything worse than a prank, and never once thought of how it all might play out, because you just can’t tell.

The only thing I can think of to do is to spend those years that you have your kids letting them know that there are situations in life that are going to be incredibly hurtful. People will do you wrong, and sometimes in a big way and sometimes for a long time. But you also have to tell them, in a meaningful way, how you can get through it. Tell kids of times when you struggled and felt hopeless and weak, and didn’t know what to do. Tell them that sometimes things will seem so bleak that you can’t even think right. Tell them that anything they are working though, someone else has already been there, and can help. Tell them to TALK to someone and ASK for guidance. No matter what it is. Show them by example, not by preaching down from the adult pedestal. And don’t set them up to fear failure more than anything else. Tell them life still has so very much joy to offer, maybe unseen now but surely coming, and that 18 is no time to quit.

A thoughtless, cruel prank, and a young life is ended. Tyler Clementi’s terror at jumping from the bridge was less than facing his peers at school. Sit with him for a minute there, in that moment before he let go.