Teen Suicide: Internet harassment's darker side

Audrie Pott, Rehtaeh Parson, Amanda Todd and Jessica Laney are names everyone has heard. There are no parents who haven't heard about them, very few teenagers who might not know their names. But apart from the one thing that they have in common is: they are all teenagers, they are all victims of sexual cyberbullying and they all choose to stop existing to get away from it all. It is their unfortunate and high profile suicides, which have finally given voice to millions of children across the country to speak out against their own silent battle with cyberbullying. Authorities are also taking notice of the viciousness and damage being inflicted upon our children due to cyberbullying and taking legal action against people involved in internet harassment cases. Social media dangers for teenagers are very real. 

Cyberbullying of teenagers and children is a little ironic because it's a crime committed against kids by other kids. There was a point when most people believe that it was more or less as much a rite of passage as playground bullying was (even though over time that too has been discovered to be not as harmless as parents thought). However, the influx of technology means teens are either online through their laptops/PCs at home or have internet access on their phones, which makes them vulnerable to bullying 24/7. They can be harassed ceaselessly throughout the day either through internet and social networking websites or texting.

If you are a parent, the latest statistics concerning cyberbullying will make you want to take your kids phone and internet connection away.

According to Cyberbullying statistics from the i-SAFE foundation
  • Victims of bullying of any kind are two to nine times likely to commit suicide
  • 25% cyber bullied kids never speak up.
  • Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyberbullying.
  • One in three young people have experienced cyber threats online.
  • Girls are somewhat more likely than boys to be victims and perpetrators of cyberbullying

Remember that teenagers are at a very delicate stage of their lives. They have a fragile self image which can get distorted for life by a single reckless remark, their psychological defense system is not fully capable of handling judgment or criticism as maturely as adults can. In this situation vicious and destructive criticism can go a long way in tipping the balance and pushing them over the edge.

What can parents do?
  • talks to your teens about the negativity of cyberbullying, encourage them to report it if they see it happening and make sure that they are not indulging in it themselves also, even in retaliation of being cyberbullied.
  • save all damaging messages and emails as proof, in case the situation comes to where you may want to take legal action against the bully.

The bottom line is that cyberbullying is something that should be dealt with early on. If it is allowed to fester it can result in the loss of a life.

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