The suicide death of 15-year-old Canadian girl Amanda Todd has awakened public anger upon those bullies who apparently tormented her, quite literally, to death.
Only last month, Todd had posted a black-and-white, nine-minute video on YouTube in which she outlined her horrific story by holding up a series of brief sentences written on white pieces of paper.
As numerous media outlets have reported, the teen stated that at the age of 12 she was lured by an unidentified male to expose her breasts on a webcam. A year later, the same male contacted her on Facebook and threatened to send the webcam photo he took to her address, her school, and her friends and family unless she “put on a show” for him.
He later followed through with the threat, and as the National Post reports, she was plunged into anxiety, major depression, drugs and alcohol.
Yet the bullying didn’t stop — even after her death, her bullies appearing on tribute Facebook pages, such as the one titled “R.I.P. Amanda Todd,” to further defame her.
Among the thousands of kind and sad comments posted in tribute, her bullies even posted the same topless photo that caused her so much pain in the first place.
The sheer heartlessness of these people is enough to make a person sick. This is only one young girl. She was no angel, and she admittedly made a few mistakes. But she has paid for them with her life, and that’s far too harsh a sentence for anyone to exact.
Yet the reality is that our children are growing up in a harsher world than we did, where home is no longer a safe haven against the bullies of the world. They can reach you any time of day.
The advent of social media such as Facebook and Twitter over the past several years have given rise to ever more awful ways to terrorize and humiliate someone, especially naive young people who don’t realize the danger they are putting themselves in, like Amanda.
In the wake of her highly public death, politicians, police, teachers and mental health workers have all put in their two cents, trying to find some way for society to address this ever-growing problem.
The Conservative federal government currently has two committees studying the problem, even as the NDP use question period to demand action. The RCMP, police forces and education groups across the country have programs in place to try and teach children how to confront bullies and protect themselves.
We actively encourage people, especially parents, to do some research on the issue and talk to their children about bullying, in all its forms, so that they don’t become bullied or bullies themselves.
It’s also worth asking what kind of role models are we being to our children, considering the following statistics.
A Statistics Canada report from 2009 suggests that seven per cent of adult Internet users in Canada, age 18 years and older, self-reported having been a victim of cyberbullying at some point.
The most common form, the report said, involved receiving threatening or aggressive emails or instant messages, something reported by 73 per cent of victims. And about one in 10 adults reported that a child aged
8 to 17 living in their household had been a victim of cyberbullying. In about seven in 10 cases, the victim was female.
Brave new world indeed.
Bullying occurs in the workplace too, not just the playground. About a year ago, Jacqueline Power, an assistant professor of management at the University of Windsor’s Odette School of Business told the CBC that about 40 per cent of Canadians have experienced one or more acts of workplace bullying at least once a week.
Power said workplace bullying included the withholding of information from a person, excluding staff from meetings and even threats and intimidation.
“It leads to higher turnover and higher rates of sickness,” Power said. “It reduces people’s levels of self-confidence.”
How can adult society expect to discourage bullying and cyberbullying among Canadian youth when we can’t even be civil to each other?
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 17, 2012