As many as 15 girls may have been involved. According to the International Business Times article:
"There were strong indications that Rebecca committed suicide due to being bullied online. Social media applications on her phone showed messages like 'Go kill yourself' and 'Why are you still alive?' the Ledger reported."
Most suicide and cyberbullying experts are not as comfortable as the media is in making such a strong correlation of cyberbullying to suicide as numerous (unreported) factors might have also played a part in Sedwick's decision, but the point of this blog is to analyze the methods of cyberbullying tactics and try to provide communities with insights on how to identify and prevent an attack from happening to children you care about.
The article went on to state:
"Judd said detectives are trying to investigate the social media applications that Sedwick used, including Kik and Ask.fm, but many of the websites are based in other countries."
First the technology:
Ask.fm, we already know, is a sketchy website operated in Latvia and is a popular social networking website among teens where users can ask other users questions, with the option of anonymity. I've seen many Ask.fm profiles and the callousness and viciousness from "anonymous" users is rampant. No kid should be using Ask.fm in my opinion, unless you're looking to be slammed and cyberbullied. (In the latest twist, some kids troll themselves on Ask.fm hoping to get their friends to protect them and write good things about them in a desperate bid for attention. Source:2paragraphs.com)
After a spate of high-profile teen suicides that have been connected to Ask.fm, the company has vowed to have better regulations including making a "report" button more prominent on the site; hiring more staff to moderate comments; and creating a "bullying/harassment" category alongside the existing categories of "spam or scam," "hate speech," "violence" and "pornographic content."
I don't know if the girls who were telling Sedwick to "go kill herself" did it on Ask.fm, or through Sedwick's Kik Messenger, a smartphone app that acts as an Instant Messenger and allows the user to share other features likes videos and images.
But we do know from news reports that Sedwick's parents shut down her Facebook account and even had her change schools. Regardless, the cyberbullying followed her when she switched social media mediums (such as from Facebook to Ask.fm).
From all that I can gather, this is another classic example of A Digital Pile On, what we, the authors of Cyberslammed, have termed a situation when a group viciously gangs up on one person through Facebook, Twitter, Ask.fm, a group chat, comments or Instant Messaging.
Sedwick might have been a target of a Digital Pile On from a multiple tech devices, websites and apps--where the behavior is the same, just the media changes.
There is no "armchair psychologist" instant solution to what happened in Sedwick's case, but one thing is clear: parents and schools need to be on top of an ongoing cyberbullying situation, particularly when a mob is involved. They need to know exactly how and what their teens are communicating about in the midst of it. Cyberbullied kids are going to be compelled to know what others are saying about them, and will be loathe to abandon social media for fear the bullies will have the upper hand. But, to heal from a cyberbullying situation, the worst thing a teen can do is constantly monitor the ongoing abuse. It's like dying a little death every day. The cyberbullies want to lure them back in, so if they see their target on different social media platform, it will start all over again.
Get the teenager away from ongoing abuse. Make a plan to find peer or adult help to shepherd him or her through this painful process. Demand the school take appropriate action or take it to the next level. And keep vigilant to make sure your teen is still talking to you and working through the situation. At this point, it is smart to have your teen's social media on a keyword monitoring system, to alert you to words like "go kill yourself." Don't take your eye off the situation until you are sure your teen has gotten through the entire traumatic incident without relapse.
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