Bullied to Death: when cyberbullying becomes the last straw
Online capacity has made bullying more dangerous than ever. Even fatal.
National Patch reporter Beth Dalbey tells a tragic and horrifying story of three girls who killed themselves rather than face a constant torrent of bullying.
Dalbey writes, “Cyberbullying — that’s when mean kids target victims online — is less common but more difficult to confront, according to two federal agencies. Relentless online bullying often occurs at night, when victims already feel isolated. And many of them are not yet equipped to cope, social worker Caroline Fenkel explains. “It has to do with neuropsychology: The frontal lobes of adolescent and teen brains — where reasoning and emotions are managed — aren’t fully developed.
“Bullies tend to act with little consideration or regard for how severely their victims may react.”
Dalbey follows the stories, and last moments, of three girls. “Rosalie hanged herself. Mallory’s parents found her dead in their home. Brandy shot herself in front of her family. These girls and others decided they would rather die than endure another moment of torment.”
(Photo: 12-year-old Mallory Grossman was a cheerleader, gymnast and raised money so children with cancer could go to summer camp. Bullies started targeting her in October 2016 with the usual: dirty looks and name calling. Then they increased to Instagram, Snapchat, and text messages. She killed herself the following June.)
What’s a parent to do?
“The CDC says when bullying happens, kids suffer, even if they just witness the horrible acts,” Dalbey points out. “Talking about bullying at home helps, experts say, and the earlier these conversations begin, the better.”
“Getting kids to engage might not be easy, but it’s important,” adds social worker Caroline Fenkel. “Parents should be clear: Bullying hurts and has long-lasting consequences, even suicide.
“This is about changing the status quo, and essentially saying that if you are going to act out and say something mean about that kid, you need to know he might struggle and may end up acting impulsively, and you have to live with that on your conscience.”
Parents also need to have frank conversations with kids when they get their first smartphones and social media accounts — something “most parents are very hands-off about,” NoBully.org’s Nicholas Carlisle notes.
“It’s important to have conversations about the amount of screen time they have, so there’s agreement on how much they interact, as well as how to get help if they feel threatened online or if they’re suffering.”