I feel compelled today to write about bullying after reading the tragic story of Amanda Todd, a beautiful girl from Port Coquitlam, BC, Canada who committed suicide after being bullied and abused by kids at her school and online by the same kids.
In a desperate cry for help, the 15-year-old girl posted a video on YouTube in which she revealed that boys had taken advantage of her, girls had assaulted her and, after an earlier suicide attempt, bullies allegedly egged her on to try again. (See the video here.)
When she was encouraged to “flash” herself, the screen image was posted on Facebook as a profile picture by one of the bullies and was spread around by the bullies as yet another means by which to torment the teen who desperately wanted a friend. I personally think Facebook needs some controls in place to prevent topless photos of children from being circulated in this way. Obviously that’s just one of the issues in a complex situation.
In a video response to the news of Amanda’s death, British Columbia premier Christy Clark stated, “I just heard about Amanda and I want to say to everyone who loved her, to all her family and friends, how sorry I am for her loss. No one deserves to be bullied. No one earns it, no one asks for it, it isn’t a rite of passage. Bullying has to stop.”
I couldn’t agree more with the premier. Bullying needs to stop. As a child I too was stalked and bullied so I can relate to the pain of such a crime. Similar to Amanda, the situation was simply diminished by adults familiar with the abusive situations.
Adults need to take bullying seriously. In many cases the assaults, threats, and other actions are criminal activities, yet schools and many parents (I’m certainly not pointing a finger at Amanda’s parents here to whom I extend my sincerest sympathies) chalk it up to “kids being kids.” Regardless the age of offenders involved in bullying, many of the actions constitute criminal activities and should be treated as such. Assaults, child porn, torture, or other forms of bullying that occur need to be taken seriously and charges need to be laid.
After watching videos and reading articles linked to Amanda Todd’s tragic death and the circumstances which led to it, I was also struck by how seemingly cold and uncompassionate the administrators at the school appeared. It’s not sufficient to say that there are supports in place and it’s certainly not sufficient to address these issues on paper—in documents that can’t replace real live human intervention. Obviously there are many schools facing the issues around bullying and I’m sure some of them are handling the situation well. Perhaps other schools can learn from them.
But, schools are not the only ones to put an end to bullying. Parents can get involved and help to put an end to bullying. I recall my own pleas for help to stop ongoing emotional and verbal abuse. It’s never just “kids just being kids.”
There are no simple answers when in it comes to bullying. In memory of Amanda Todd, whose bullying ended only with her own death, let’s make a commitment to put an end to bullying before it destroys the precious lives of more children. If you see bullying, get involved, make your voice heard. Kids, even teenagers, are still just kids. They need adult intervention when they are being assaulted, harassed, or emotionally or verbally abused. If you suspect your child is a bully, you need to act now to put an end to his or her damaging and abusive behavior. And, just as important, reach out to a child who is friendless and in need of support. Your friendship could save a life.
In memory of Amanda, please commit to end bullying now.