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What We All Can Learn from One Teenage Girl’s Nightmare

Teenagers make a lot of dumb choices. Screwing up is part of growing up. It has ever been thus. But it has never been this: a world where the errors of youth are archived for eternity. Where hate can breed without the inconvenience of having to see your victim’s face. Where even moving away can’t We’ve all been going on for years about the potential implications of this fact. That potential was horribly realized for Amanda Todd, a Canadian teen who committed suicide on Wednesday after years of persistent, overwhelming bullying both on and offline.

What stands out about Amanda’s story is how many layers of  internet nightmare it encompasses…and how brilliantly she tells it. Just a couple of weeks ago, Amanda made a video, holding a stack of cue cards to tell her story in bubbly teenage handwriting. She stood silently behind, letting the script of her life unfold, unable to interfere.  The result is heartbreaking, and enormously powerful. I have never seen a stronger message about the dangers of the things teenagers do online: chatting with strangers, flashing their bodies, making themselves vulnerable to people who don’t know them—or don’t care about them. 

Of course there are questions: Is this the whole story? What was going on at home? Was anyone helping Amanda manage this? Did someone suggest she take a break from social media for awhile? None of us can possibly know the details of Amanda’s story. But what is clear from watching her heartbreaking video, and reading about the tragic aftermath is that the dangers of bullying are very real, and they’re not going anywhere- not unless a whole lot of something is done about it.

What that something is is not wholly clear. But I’d say communication is a good start. Consider sharing this video with your children, once they’re old enough, which, in my opinion, is as soon as they gain the ability to go online alone.  There are a lot of difficult subjects raised, but they are the very ones teens need to know about to avoid similar problems. Amanda shows what the risks really are more clearly than any adult’s description ever could. I’m so sorry this happened to Amanda Todd and her family.  I hope we can somehow use her memory to help keep other kids safer from this kind of suffering.

 

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