This is a video that’s almost too painful to watch.
Fifteen year-old Canadian Amanda Todd stands before a camera and tells her heartbreaking story with phrases written of pieces of paper.
It is a wrenching tale of cyber-bullying, self-harm and suicide attempts. Of how she was harassed and shunned at school after an embarrassing photo of her was circulated. She harmed herself, drank bleach to kill herself, moved schools, went to counselling, and was on medication.
And, the internet being the internet – no geographical boundaries – the cyber bullies followed her.
Four days ago she killed herself in her Port Coquitlam home.
Now Amanda Todd’s mother wants the video to be used as an anti-bullying tool. “That is what my daughter would have wanted,” Carol Todd told the Vancouver Sun.
Despite being told by a coroner last week that watching the video would bring her closure, Carol Todd said she was not able to bring herself to watch it.
The heartbreak would be too much.
In Australia, adolescent psychology expert Michael Carr-Gregg said that Amanda’s story highlighted the urgent need for decent cyber safety laws and their policing.
“When you look at what that little girl went through there are two issues that stand out. Firstly, none of the people involved have been prosecuted. Secondly, clearly she had a pre-existing mental illness,” Mr Carr-Gregg said.
Author of the book Real Wired Child, Mr Carr-Gregg said that 80 percent of kids who commit suicide have a pre-existing mental illness, and that the internet was attractive to those vulnerable children.
“At all ages throughout adolescence, kids’ main desire is to be accepted by their age mates. When you are essentially mentally ill, you are isolated from the real world because kids have low threshold tolerance for those kids who might be a little bit weird or diffferent.
“That leaves those kids with only one avenue. On the internet, you can be whoever you want to be, and what this little girl craved was acceptance, she wanted someone to say, you are beautiful, you are a good person, I love you.
“And what she got was digital misogyny.”
Mr Carr-Gregg believes all children needed to sit a test for internet usage, like a driver’s licence, so they knew how to use it responsibly.
He also emphasised parental responsibility: “Parents really need to step up to the plate and stop taking a laissez-faire approach to their kids’ internet usage.”
Do you worry about your kids online?
Are they spending too much time in cyberspace, and are you strict enough about their internet usage?
Help is always at hand. Contact Lifeline at their site or on 13 11 14