Three weeks ago British Columbia teen Amanda Todd was discovered dead in her home in Vancouver. The fifteen year old girl committed suicide after being tormented by bullies online.
Amanda posted a heartbreaking You Tube Video a month before her death highlighting the bullying and cruelty she faced. In the video, which now has more than 4 million views, young Amanda reveals that when she was in Grade 7 (12 years old) she attempted to make friends online and she ended up flashing someone (via webcam).
The next year the male contacted her on Facebook and threatened to share the photo to her family and friends if she didn’t “put on a show.” Police eventually informed Amanda that the explicit photo had been sent to everyone she knew on Facebook.
Amanda said she lost her friends, she changed schools, experienced anxiety and depression, and experimented with drugs and alcohol. As a result of the relentless bullying online, Amanda faced bullying in school. The video concludes with Amanda’s request for “someone” to help her and then couple of pictures of her arm, one of which shows her self-induced cuts.
The bully who tormented Amanda for years has supposedly been identified as a Wisconsin man by the Internet Hacker group Anonymous. The RCMP has an investigation ongoing into the death of Amanda.
Online is Forever
In Amanda’s video, through the use of one of her flashcards, she makes a point of saying she can never recover or destroy the picture that ruined her life.
Think Before you Tweet
One of the dangers of the online-connected world we live in today is that a momentary lapse of judgement can be quickly broadcasted across social networks causing permanent and widespread social scarring.
Can Some Good Come of This?
Amanda’s mother, Carol Todd, has since made a statement in the hope that some good can come from the tragic death of her daughter:
“I have lost one child, but know she wanted her story to save 1,000 more.”
The message she is sending is both anti-bullying and imploring kids to think about the ramifications of their online activity.
With today’s youth spending as much time as they do online, cyberbullying is a disturbing and increasing trend.
Internet Empowers Cowards
One reason cyberbullying is becoming more prevalent is that it allows cowards to remain anonymous (or pretend to be someone else) while they victimize others. The perceived protection of anonymity means that bullies may be more willing to say/do things they would not be willing to say/do in person.
Victims Can Fight Back
But the protective shroud of anonymity can be lifted through a Court order demanding that the Internet Service Provider (ISP) reveal the identity of the cyberbully.
Anonymity Works Both Ways
Recently the Supreme Court of Canada in A.B. v. Bragg Communications Inc ruled that a teenage victim of cyberbullying can proceed anonymously in her proceeding requesting ISPs to disclose the identity of cyberbullies.
This ruling was definitely a victory for victims of cyberbullying. For a more detailed discussion of this case you can check out my article: Supreme Court of Canada Strikes a Blow Against Cyberbullies.
For more information on bullying generally you can also check out my previous article on the Legal Examiner: Childhood Memories Show Lasting Effects of Bullying – More needs to be done
There is a Nova Scotia website and hotline number for kids who are being bullied. The website states that their web and phone counselling is for kids aged 20 and under, it is free 24/7, it is anonymous, confidential and non-judgemental.
Website Phone: 1-800-668-6868
Since March 2012, the Nova Scotia government has hosted a Cyberbullying Taskforce Website. According to the website, the task force focuses on intervention, education, assessment and policy.
John McKiggan Q.C. is an injury lawyer and child safety advocate from Halifax, Nova Scotia. John dedicates his practice exclusively to representing persons who have suffered an injury or loss as a result of medical malpractice, car and truck accidents (or other serious personal injury claims) and institutional liability. He has a special interest in representing victims claims for childhood abuse.
This article was previously published on the Halifax Personal Injury Lawyer Blog