How many Facebook accounts does your child have, aside from the one you know about? Is your child an Ask.fm user? Does your child post pictures on Instagram? Do their friends? Does your child tell jokes about the weird boy or the fat girl? No? Are you sure about that?
Our kids are killing themselves. Their peers are telling them to do it! Taunting them to do it. Daring them to do it. Until….
Rebecca Sedwick, of Lakeland, FL was just twelve-years-old when she deliberately jumped to her death on September 09, 2013, after months of social media bullying. She was terrorized. It all started over a boy. Rebecca’s mother said,
“they got what they wanted!” in response to Rebecca’s bullies telling her,
“You haven’t killed yourself yet? Would you please just die!”
Rebecca had changed her name on social media to, “That Dead Girl.” Just before Rebecca killed herself, she sent a text message to a couple of friends, stating: “I’m dead. I’m jumping. I can’t take it anymore.”
In addition to a variety of social media sites, Rebecca was an Ask.fm user.
Audrie Pott, of Saratoga, CA was just fifteen-years-old when she hung herself in the bathroom on September 10, 2012, eight days after being sexually assaulted at a party. Images of the assault were posted and shared throughout social media.
Jessica Laney, of Hudson, FL was just sixteen-years-old when she hung herself on December 09, 2012, after being the victim of social media bullying. In addition to other social media sites, Jessica was an Ask.fm user.
Hannah Smith, of Lutterworth, Leicestershire, England, was just fourteen-years-old when she hung herself in response to cyber bullying. Hannah posted this picture to Facebook the day before she took her own life.
Even in death, these children remain victims of cyber bullying with comments like this one, spewing hate and placing blame on the victim! Hateful comments like this one, in response to any given teen suicide can be found all over social media. We continue to allow it! We can’t allow it.
What will take for people to start taking cyber-bullying more seriously?
We must come together as a World. That’s how big this issue is. This is a global, world-wide, CRISIS! We must approach it as such. We must stop defending bullying by crying censorship when it suits us. The right to freedom of speech is being used as a lethal weapon and people are dying. The next time your child cracks a joke about the boy with the bad acne, the girl with the bad breath, or the gay kid, referred to as neither boy or girl, rather faggot – STOP! STOP everything you are doing. Call in sick to work. Do not say, “we’re going to talk about this later!” Do not dismiss it. Your child, although not a bad child, might be the one to push another over the edge, that day, with a single comment, because she doesn’t know she can. Because, she doesn’t get it. And. She. Won’t. At least, not until we do. We have to get that words are weapons, and not just metaphorically so. Words + words = sentence. Bullying + sentence = death sentence. Don’t let your child’s words be another child’s death sentence. When we see a comment like the one above, which just so happens to be on a Huffington Post site, we must protest. A nose-picking video can go viral, but this posted article about Jessica only got 27 tweets in nearly a year? #GetViralAgainstBullying. That’s what it’s going to take.
How can we educate students on the acts and behaviors of cyber-bullying?
Place a suicide-crisis-line magnet on your fridge. Tell your children that if they ever feel like they can’t talk to you, to talk to someone. Don’t assume your child would tell you if something is wrong. Often times, children don’t want to make their parents feel bad, or don’t believe their parents can help. They might be afraid, ashamed, or scared. Make sure your children take a suicide threat from a friend seriously, and know to reach out to an adult, IMMEDIATELY. Be the community parent with an open door policy for a child in crisis.
Set the example. Open up with your child about your own experiences of being bullied, bullying others, or both. One of the most important things I can tell parents is to start talking and keep talking. Studies show that people learn in a variety of styles. People REMEMBER based on impact and repetition. Annual school assemblies from the local police department are not going to save our children’s lives. It’s not enough. Keep telling your children about the Jessicas, Audries, Hannahs, and Rebeccas. Say their names. Show their pictures. If you are moved to cry, let your children see you feel the pain in it’s raw form. Start a fundraiser and donate the proceeds to your child’s school, to be allocated to the development of anti-bullying campaigns through the art departments. Get creative. Music. Theatre. Art. We can’t remember our own phone numbers but how quickly do we remember the words to our newest favorite song? Impact. That’s the key. If our children don’t feel the message, they won’t remember it.
How do we monitor our children’s internet activity?
So many parents are worried about invading their children’s privacy. From the moment our children open their first email account, privacy is gone. Many teachers require students to utilize online learning modules to keep up with the educational trends. Once a post is made on the internet, it cannot be undone. Deleting a post or comment won’t undo it. Now, it’s out there. That’s what our children need to understand. As parents, we have to look beyond our egos. “I trust my kid!” I hear this so often from parents. Trusting our children is one thing. Unfortunately, when it comes to social media, our absence in that part of our children’s lives is equal to trusting the rest of the world.
There is hope. We can make little changes that will have a big impact in our children’s lives. Set a time for cell phones to be turned off for the evening. Use an internet history recovery service or program and be open with your children about utilizing it. Run the program at least twice per month. It’s doesn’t take long for enough to turn into too much. Designate an internet access station in your home, in the living room or family room. Set a time to turn the router off at night along with the cell phones. Encourage your child to be social at home, with their own family. Store cellphones, laptops, and tablets in a central location each night. The less time your child spends on the internet doing non schoolwork related activity, the less likely they are to become dependent on the internet for social interaction. Limit recreational time. Keep up on the technological trends and slang. Talk with your children about teen-focused news stories that are current. Remember, start talking and keep talking.
By: Alicia Gonzalez
In loving memory of Rebecca, Audrie, Jessica, Hannah, and the thousands more, lost to a death sentence.