A 15-year-old girl from Staten Island died Monday after reportedly jumping in front of a bus. The girl, sophomore Amanda Cummings, was carrying a suicide note in her pocket, and according to her uncle she had been bullied repeatedly by peers at her school. Even while she was in the hospital, dying, peers were continuing to post inappropriate, mean and crude comments on her Facebook wall.
As reported by the New York Times, although Amanda had hinted at times to her family about the bullying and cyberbullying, it was only recently that the family began to understand the intensity of the bullying, once relatives began reading messages on her phone and Facebook page. Amanda has also been harassed repeatedly over her relationship with an older boy they both liked. Police did inform the family that the suicide note in Amanda’s pocket made reference to her inability to be with a boy.
Does this story break your heart like it does mine? Kids have always been mean—they certainly were mean at times to me when I was growing up. But it seems as though the cruelty and intensity of the bullying far exceeds anything that my generation had to deal with. With technology today, kids are being bullied 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week. Through their Facebook accounts, mobile phones and other online spaces, there is really no escape from their tormenters.
Parents: If your kids ever hint at experiencing bullying, online or offline, please don’t take it lightly. Be proactive. I think it’s perfectly appropriate to use parental controls (like Safe Eyes), monitor what other kids are saying to them online and perform spot checks on their phones and other technology platforms to see what sort of texts your children are sending and receiving and what is circulating about them online. And in today’s highly sexualized world, be aware that the bullying often involves kid-produced sexual photos or videos (sexts), “private” sex and relationship conversations that were forwarded and spread online and sexually-fueled harassment and name calling. If you discover that your kid had a lapse of judgment and was involved in something like this, remember to stay calm and avoid adding more shame to the situation. (Read about preventing sexting here)
In general, be aware of some of the warning signs (from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) that could indicate that your kid may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, including:
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself. (Check texts, online posts and online journal spaces)
- Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun. (Check your family’s online history or use monitoring software for clues)
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
- Talking about being a burden to others.
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
- Sleeping too little or too much.
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
- Displaying extreme mood swings.
Our prayers are with Amanda’s family.