It seems like everywhere you turn there is a new movie or television show about cyberbullying. Those are just for entertainment, though. There is no bullying on social media that would cause someone to kill themselves, right? Wrong.
Cyberbullying is defined on Dictionary.com as “the act of harassing someone online by sending or posting mean messages, usually anonymously.” The ABC Family original movie “Cyberbully” focuses on a high school girl named Taylor Hillridge that gets bullied over the internet to the point that she tries to overdose on prescription drugs. In September of 2013 a 12 year-old-girl named Rebecca Sedwick committed suicide after being cyberbullied.
Rebecca and her parents reported the cyberbullying to school officials, but they did nothing to stop it. Rebecca’s parents moved her to a new school and deleted her Facebook account.
That wasn’t enough. The cyberbullying continued and was worse than ever. “If you haven’t killed yourself yet, would you please just die,” one message said to Rebecca. Finally, she had enough and texted one of her friends. She stated she was going to kill herself because she “couldn’t take it anymore.”
After Rebecca’s death, police searched her computer. In addition to finding more horrible messages, they found Rebecca’s search history. This included searches such as “how many Advil do you need to take to die?”
Although Taylor’s story from “Cyberbully” is fictional, there are several parallels to Rebecca’s story and too many stories similar to Rebecca’s. They reach out to people for support. They try to get rid of Social Media platforms where they’re being attacked.
Netflix’s newest hit show is “Thirteen Reasons Why.” This show is based off of the book with the same name written by Jay Asher in 2007. It follows a high school boy named Clay Jensen as he listens to cassette tapes written by a girl that committed suicide. There are 13 tapes for the 13 people that were reasons she killed herself.
There are several articles responding to the Netflix series saying that no one can be bullied to the point of killing themselves because we are in control of our own actions and emotions. I have a few questions for the authors of those articles. Have you not seen how mean pre-teens and teenagers can be to one another? Have you not spent any time talking to a child in middle school about their social media habits? Do you watch the news? If so, have you seen the alarming amount of news stories about children committing suicide?
A new bill was presented to the Senate this week. Senate Bill 179, also known as David’s Law, is hoping to shed some light on the problem that is cyberbullying. David Molak, whom the bill is named after, committed suicide in January of last year after being cyberbullied. He was 16-years-old.
This isn’t the only law that has been passed recently regarding cyberbullying. On March 22 of this year a local law was passed in Ulster County, NY. This law states that anyone harassing someone under the age of 18 will receive a fine up to $1000 and up to one year in jail.
These laws are a step in the right direction, but we need to do more as a society. We need to recognize the signs that someone might be being cyberbullied. We need to know how to talk and help those same people. If we cannot help them, we need to be able to direct them to someone that will be able to.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day 365 days a year. This resource provides a real person to talk to if someone is in distress, needs suicide prevention, or is in a crisis situation. Their phone number is 1-800-273-8255 and they also have an instant messaging chat where you can talk via text on your computer instead of talking to someone on the phone.
If you or anyone you know is being cyberbullied or is thinking about committing suicide, get help from someone you trust or from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
John 4:4 states, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” God has a plan for you. You matter.