Intervention could have saved teen’s life

A Canadian teenager, Amanda Todd, committed suicide earlier this month after facing years of cyberbullying. Though focus in schools has turned to bullying and bystander prevention during the last few years, the 16-year-old ended up lost in the shuffle.
Had some of these anti-bullying tactics been applied by her parents, teachers, classmates and even Facebook, it is possible the teenager would still be alive today.
A month before her death, Todd posted a YouTube video documenting the story of how she was pressured to reveal herself to a stranger on the Internet as a 12-year-old girl. The stranger threatened he would send the webcam picture he took to her friends and family if Todd did not “put on a show.” Todd protested and the incident became a long struggle with online harassment and stalking. The picture was sent to Todd’s friends, family and classmates – even though she changed schools several times – and was used as a profile picture for an account the stalker created on Facebook.
The incident led to years of bullying, as well as threats and harassment by her classmates and strangers on the Internet. Todd developed anxiety, depression, cutting, as well as drug and alcohol issues and attempted suicide. According to Todd’s video, she exchanged text messages with a friend she thought liked her. After students at school found out, they beat her and filmed it.
Even after her death, a Facebook tribute page to Todd is littered with bullying and scathing remarks.
While the young girl’s actions were undoubtedly wrong, the true moral question in the case asks why no one in Todd’s life or on the Internet stood up for her.
The police were initially involved, yet Todd’s attacker was never discovered. The hacker group Anonymous has named who they believe to be the man responsible. But when it comes to pedophilia of 12-year-old girls, the case is a job for the law, not the Internet. The police should have done far more to persecute the person who made a little girl’s life a living hell.
As people become more connected to the Internet, it is becoming a sort of “place” where laws and safety must be effectively enforced. Facebook should be more vigilant when enforcing its policies as well, since it left a nude photo unchecked on its website.
One also has to wonder where parents and teachers were in the life of a 12-year-old girl. Though several teachers intervened after Todd was beaten up at school, a society so focused on anti-bullying should do more to step in and follow up with her well-being.
The principal at CABE, Todd’s high school, told the Vancouver Sun, “I can tell you we feel we tried everything we could to help her when she came to us.”
Yet she was still being stalked and harassed and struggled with mental health and drug abuse.
As a teenager dealing with depression, anxiety, suicide, cutting and drugs, Todd needed help from those around her – and she was not given it. As society faces increased online connections, we must devise effective ways of educating students and community members about online safety and enforcing laws when issues arise.
Jessica Schoenfeld is a junior majoring in sociology and theatre.