That Dead Girl (The One That Got Bullied on the Internet)
By: Jerry Woodward
Rebecca Ann Sedwick’s story is one that has become sadly familiar. Her suicide could have been prevented. But no one is quite sure how.
She left to go to school on a Monday morning, the same as she always did. Except that she didn’t bring her textbooks. She also left without her phone. She didn’t want to be reached. Maybe she didn’t want to be tempted to reach out.
She used a program called Kik messenger. She changed her screen name to That Dead Girl. She contacted two friends to give them a hint as to her plans. She wished them a final farewell. And then she left.
There was a disused cement plant close to her family’s home in Lakeland, Florida. She climbed to a high place and jumped.
She’s not the only person that’s been pushed to suicide because of pressure from online bullying, so-called cyberbullying. Sadly, she won’t be the last. The technologies that have emerged alongside smartphones and online services have enabled some incredible developments across society, but they have also empowered bullies with the means to torment their victims in vast, ubiquitous, anonymous ways that can seemingly overtake someone’s life.
How Are Parents Supposed to Keep Up With Their Child’s Problems Online?
There are so many different chat, messaging, social and photo sharing programs that it’s impossible for parents to keep up. Parents have a hard time keeping up with who a child’s friends are from month to month, let alone trying to monitor the online presence of their children across several different platforms under an array of aliases in several media. But this behavior comes naturally to kids. It’s the world they live in. If someone wants to harass you, they will find you.
In many cases, no one is ever held accountable. Slowly but surely, legislators are catching up. But it remains a slippery slope. As one technology or method is outlawed, two services that skirt the issue can replace it, like cutting off one of the Hydra’s heads and seeing two grow back.
Rebecca was bitterly antagonized online by kids from her middle school. They sent her hateful messages and encouraged her to take her own life. Kids did this. It can be hard to believe. It is illegal to encourage another person to kill themselves. So why is nothing being done?
Rebecca’s mother knew about the bullying. She reported it to authorities and made a complaint at the school. She took Rebecca’s phone away, withdrew her from school and re-enrolled her in a new school. Everything seemed better.
But Rebecca had signed up to services that her mother had never even heard of, like Kik and Ask.fm. There, the bullying began again.
Once again she was encouraged to kill herself. She posted pictures of herself committing acts of self-harm. Cutting herself. She Googled methods by which one could commit suicide. But no one knew what was going on.
What could anyone have done?
It’s clear that her suicide could have been prevented, but no one knows quite how.