Cyber-bullying: What you can do to help your kids

Cyber-bullying: What you can do to help your kids
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Cyber-bullying: What you can do to help your kids

On April 7, 2013, the life support of Rehtaeh Parsons, 17, was switched off. The Halifax teenager had been on life support since her attempted suicide which followed 18 months of cyberbullying. The reason for the cyberbullying? In 2011 she was the victim of an alleged gang rape by four classmates. During the assault her attackers took photos of her and circulated them which caused other classmates to bully her and accuse her of lying about the assault. 

This tragic event echoes the suicide of Amanda Todd, 15, who was found dead in her home in British Columbia last October. Prior to her death, the desperate teenager had recorded a nine-minute video called My Story: Struggling, bullying, suicide and self-harm. Using a series of harrowing flash-cards, she described her experience of being bullied after flashing a guy on an online forum.

" I got a message on facebook," one of these flash cards read. "From him. Don't know how he knew me. It said...if you don't put on a show for me I will send your boobs. He knew my address, school, relatives, friends family names."

This one mistake followed Amanda Todd despite her moving, changing schools, shifting friendships, until it took over her entire life, and became her only identity.

"Every day, I think, why am I still here?" she asked towards the end of the video. "I'm stuck. What's left of me now? Nothing stops. I have nobody. I need someone. My name is Amanda Todd."

The deaths of Rehtaeh Parsons and Amanda Todd are a shocking reminder that bullying has taken a new, uglier, and more violent form: cyber-bullying.

According to an Ipsos Reid Survey conducted in 2011, one in five Canadian teens have witnessed online bullying. More than 50% of these teens had had a negative experience with social networking.

Anne Cohen
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