“That Dead Girl”: A Family And A Town After A Cyberbullied 12-Year-Old’s Suicide

In September, after a year of being bullied online, Rebecca Sedwick threw herself off a three-story cement silo, sparking an international freak-out over the responsibility social media networks like Ask.fm have in fostering this kind of harassment. But for Rebecca’s family, friends, and neighbors, the problem isn’t technology or opportunistic startups — it’s people.


Five weeks after Rebecca’s death, Lakeland Sheriff Grady Judd arrested two girls from Crystal Lake Middle School and charged both with aggravated stalking, a felony. Although they were minors, Judd released their names: Guadalupe Shaw, a 14-year-old who went to school with Rebecca, who was the purported ringleader, and 12-year-old Katelyn Roman, her accomplice. Judd claimed they had organized a network of up to 16 other teenagers who verbally and physically threatened Rebecca in school and then bombarded her social media accounts — particularly via her Ask.fm page and an app called Kik Messenger — with cruel comments, many urging her to kill herself. And that was what elevated Rebecca’s story from a small-town tragedy to global cautionary tale for an unchecked epidemic of cyberbullying.

Both Kik and Ask.fm are especially popular with teenagers desperate for more private social networks than Facebook, which is to be expected — teens don’t want to hang out with their parents, especially on the internet. Kik Messenger is a mobile instant messaging app that gives users a discreet way to chat and share videos and pictures. According to figures from this spring, more than 200,000 people sign up for the Kik app daily, and 50 million currently use it. Kik connects users with Facebook friends and people in their phone’s address book, giving them the ability to anonymously message one another. Friends and family say Rebecca often wasn’t even sure whom she was being bullied by.

via “That Dead Girl”: A Family And A Town After A Cyberbullied 12-Year-Old’s Suicide.


2 thoughts on ““That Dead Girl”: A Family And A Town After A Cyberbullied 12-Year-Old’s Suicide

  1. My high school brought in people from a suicide prevention campaign. Rebecca’s story may be a sign that these campaigns need to be brought in much earlier. I feel that as you grow older you understand the help that is available to you and maybe have a better perspective on the options that are better than suicide.

    Addressing the issue on the responsibility of ask.fm and other social media sites, it says a lot that Rebecca’s parents place no blame on them and say that the change needs to come from people. It could also be that teens need to better understand the consequences of bullying and how cyber bullying is no different. The girl who cyber bullied Rebecca had to have been oblivious to the consequences of her actions considering what she posted to Facebook.

    Ultimately, I agree with Rebecca’s parents that the solution needs come from within people, parents, and the education system. Obviously parents have a hard time monitoring their children’s online activity, but they need to have a discussion with them about the dangers of social media especially if they have seen their child treat another child with disrespect.

  2. A few years ago, when there was the Tyler Clementi incident, this was a very big deal. It seems like as time goes on, there are more occurrences of cyberbullying. Kids have always made poor decisions, but in the past, kids have only been able to affect their fellow schoolmates within school hours, unless they saw them off of school grounds.

    Is this a coincidence? I don’t think so. We are able to track and gain awareness of bullying these days in the exact same ways that the bullying is happening: via internet.

    As mobile devices and internet capability becomes more common, there is an increase for the amount of users and ranges of ages for users. Immature actions of kids are now not only possible during school hours but outside as well. Many children have mobile devices and therefore have one or several social media applications.

    This may be a stretch, but regulating children’s activities on social media sites may not be a job just for parents. By bringing in regulators of social media sites to track usage and content, kids’ lives may be saved. Plus, having cyberbodyguards on social media sites for our “less mature” users may make parents feel more safe and look better on the social media company.

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