Is Technology Making Our Kids Cruel?

You’ve heard about the rise in the number of teenage suicides at middle school and high schools in the previous 8 years. Students have been cyber-bullying each other and making the kind of terrible comments they once made in person except now, with the anonymity accorded the through cyberbullying, it’s easier not to get caught. Sadly most teens aren’t reporting their victimization to their parents or their teachers. They suffer silently until one day they commit a drastic act and the community and their families are left asking themselves “why?”

Rebecca Sedwick, 12, Whitehaven, Florida
12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick was cyberbullied for one year and finally succumbed to suicide in October 2013. One of her tormentors blatantly rebecca-sedgwicktold people she didn’t care about Sedwick’s suicide or her role in it. The suspects, ages 12 and 14, were charged with felony aggravated stalking. This came as no surprise to police. Even though the accused girls’ parents were contacted by police about Sedwick’s death, the parents did not cooperate with police and the girls were still allowed to use their social media accounts.  One girl who began dating Sedwick’s ex-boyfriend, posted comments on the Internet saying Sedwick should “drink bleach and die.”

The father of the 14-year-old told The Associated Press that his daughter was “a good girl” and he was “100 percent sure that whatever they’re saying about my daughter is not true.”

“The parents were not doing what parents are supposed to do,” Sheriff Judd said. “My goodness, wake up.”

Judd said Sedwick was “terrorized” by as many as 15 girls who ganged up on her and picked on her through online message boards and texts. Some of the girls’ computers and cellphones were seized in the investigation. He said the two girls arrested were the major culprits. On Sept. 9, young Rebecca Sedwick climbed a tower at an abandoned concrete plant and jumped to her death.

Amanda Todd, 15, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Amanda Todd
was in the 10th grade at Coquitlam Alternate Basic Education in Coquitlam. Todd shared a topless photograph of herself with a man in an internet chat room. Unfortunately he couldn’t suicide13n-2-webbe trusted and the picture ended up making the rounds at her school. After Todd’s suicide, the suspect proved to be a 35-year-old man who was officially charged in April 2014 in the Netherlands in connection with Todd’s suicide.

The unidentified suspect was charged with extortion, internet luring, criminal harassment and child pornography. The police mentioned the suspect is involved in other abuse cases and not just the Todd story. Todd was lured into sending a pedophile a semi-nude picture of herself over the internet and it cost Todd her life.

A peer made the photo of her breasts his Facebook profile photo. A student punched her. The resulting cyberbullying tormented Todd so much that she made a heartbreaking Youtube video where she explained the reason for her impending suicide. She held up placards with messages that included “every day I think why am I still here?” and “they said I hope she sees this and kill herself.”

Todd was mercilessly bullied, forced to change schools, turned to drugs and alcohol and began to self-mutilate by cutting herself. Todd tried to kill herself by drinking bleach, but was rushed to the hospital and survived. The school was aware of the YouTube video before Todd’s suicide and had “support in place,” according to Cheryl Quinton, a spokeswoman for the district. Grief counseling was provided to students at the school. Whatever supports were in place they were clearly ineffective.

 

The Survivor
Now and then, a teenager manages to overcome their bullies and survive. Riyadh1_640x345_acf_croppedThis young man, Riyadh, who was bullied throughout high school for being a homosexual, posted his own Youtube video claiming “after time passes your bullies just end up being normal people. They’re not evil people. It’s not some scar that should remain there forever.” However when he placed a telephone call to his former bully he admitted “Im actually shaking.” The bully was surprised that the young man had been afraid of him and said “you were there at the time….me personally if you pulled me aside I think I wouldn’t have kept going at you kind of thing.”

I disagree with Riadh’s defense of bullies. Some people are lifelong bullies. They thrive on insulting people and they need to be in control of other people’s autonomy. Consider a tyrannical boss or co-worker who targets employees in order to feel superior. These people are bullies. And bullies raise bullies. It’s that simple. And that tragic.

To be sure many teenagers use social media and they don’t bully people. They usually post nice comments about themselves and others. I believe for many people bullying is a choice and with or without technology, they would still be bullies. But the internet makes it much easier to attack people, ergo it makes it easier to bully. It’s doubtful anyone anticipated cyberbullying as an outcome of technological advancement. In spite of our technological advancement we are still taking one step forward and two steps back.

 

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