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Amanda Todd and Bullying

February 13th, 2013 | by admin admin | in Safety Advice |    10   comments

stop_bully.jpgLast fall, when 15-year-old Amanda Todd committed suicide in Port Coquitlam, her YouTube video about being bullied and blackmailed attracted global attention. Governments, parents and teens alike spoke up. Many condemned the bullies who stalked, taunted and extorted Amanda online. Some blamed the victim. Others blamed the schools. Few had any answers.

We can learn much from Amanda’s tragedy. Her ordeal began when a stranger in a video chatroom convinced her to show her breasts and then threatened to circulate her photos. Amanda was only in grade 7.

The most basic rule of cyber safety is to remember there is no privacy online. Once you post a photo or make a comment, it can go around the world—or your school—in an instant. Exposing yourself on a webcam or smartphone is no different from doing so on a public street. While that may be difficult for an adult to grasp, it is even harder for a young teen to remember. A Maclean’s article about Amanda Todd pointed out that such “truth or dare” activity is, in fact, quite common among 13 to 15 year olds.

Then there are the realities of social media. Because you post to Facebook, Formspring and Twitter from your own bedroom, mere words and images on a screen, it feels safe and private. You’re anonymous, right? But classmates, co-workers, acquaintances and strangers can stalk and shame you through social media. Just as they can in real life, except they may be even bolder because they, too, feel anonymous.

The B.C. Ministry of Education’s ERASE Bullying web site offers resources and tips for fighting bullying in schools.

Parents concerned about their child being bullied can watch for changes in behaviour or emotions, such as:

  • Refusal to go to school or participate in extra-curricular activities
  • Anxiety, fear or overreaction
  • Low self-esteem or negative comments
  • Regular stomach aches and headaches without a physical cause
  • Sadness and irritability
  • Difficulty sleeping, nightmares, bedwetting

More warning signs for parents of victims and bullies.

If you suspect your child is being bullied, you need to ask him about it. In the car or on a walk, he doesn’t have to look you in the eye and may be more willing to open up. Ask open-ended questions about what he liked about his day. Let him do the talking. Listen carefully, exploring details, without judging. Reassure your child his feelings are OK.

If you suspect, or have been told, your child is bullying others, take it seriously and address the situation calmly. Keeping an open-minded, ask her about her friends and what they do together. Make it very clear that bullying behaviour must stop immediately. Probe whether something at home or school is causing her to act out.

More information on how to help.

Either way, it’s time to talk.


Note: This blog discusses general safety and security topics. It is not intended to provide comprehensive advice or guidance. In all matters of personal safety and security, we encourage readers to research topics in depth and consult a security professional about specific concerns.


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