Bullied to death

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Yet another teen has taken her life in a disturbing ‘trend’ of kids who are being bullied to death online. 13-year-old Irish teen Erin Gallagher reportedly killed herself on the weekend after finding herself unable to cope any longer as the victim of online bullies, reported the Independent.

Warnings

A frequent user of the site ask.fm, Erion had been targeted for abuse; shortly before her body was discovered, she allegedly warned the bullies that she was going to take her own life. In a post on Friday, the day before she died, she responded to a comment which appears to refer to her being the victim of a physical attack in which she'd had her hair pulled.

"Do u think ur funny bulling me over ask.fm yeah u prob think it was funny when a f**in put a rope round my neck cause of yous, yous are that sad!

"Leave it now u had ur f**in fun get over it! My hair wasnt all over the ground trust me plus stop going round saying a got a bald patch I had or have no bald patch!"


Her family is reportedly devastated.

The furore around cyber-bullying related suicides has gained momentum in recent weeks - two weeks ago Amanda Todd took her own life, in the process becoming a figurehead in the campaign against online bullying, while another Irish girl, 15-year-old Ciara Pugsley also committed suicide after being bullied, also on ask.fm.

The spate of deaths has prompted parents to question the safety of their children - One question which is frequently asked after tragedies such as these is, why didn’t the parents intervene? Why do these children continue to log in to accounts where they are being insulted, mocked and verbally abused?

The complex world of online teens is being revealed through incidents such as these as one in which fragile personalities are revealing their intimate thoughts, only to have aggressive teens (or adults) exploit their vulnerabilities.

What are the signs?

Often the parents are unaware of the extent of their child’s unhappiness, as the emotions are only being played out online. Many teens exhibit signs of depression, anger or sadness, so it is hard to discern the danger signs. Here are a few tips which could indicate that your child is experiencing unhealthy relationships online:
  • Eating disorders/changes in appetite: Teens who are refusing to eat or exhibiting other eating disorders may be on the receiving end of bullies who are criticising them for their body shapes. An insecure (or even a seemingly secure) child may try to take control of their body image in inappropriate ways, such as avoiding food.
  • Self-harm: If your teen is cutting him/herself, this indicates inappropriate self-expression, and is an outward expression of emotional problems. There are also chat rooms and sites where this kind of behaviour is encouraged.
  • Depressive behaviour: It’s not easy to discern a teen’s moods- but if your child suddenly stops enjoying activities previously enjoyed, stops interacting socially, or shows any other depressive behaviour, it may be time to find out if there is a specific root cause for this.
  • If you’re not sure or concerned that something isn’t quite right, then speak to your child, involve peers and counsellors if necessary and even consider a radical intervention such as the removal of smart phones or computers being used to access sites in which bullying is taking place.
Although respecting a child’s privacy used to be considered honourable, and the basis of a trusting relationship, more and more parents are opting to have security settings on their kid’s online neighbourhoods, as well as asking for open access to all of their kid’s accounts and passwords for spot checks.

Do you agree that the days of online privacy for teens are over?
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