This is something totally off-topic but it’s something that is becoming more and more a regular news story. It’s making me afraid, short of not freaking out, because cyber bullying is growing into an ever larger symptom of society that can’t be cured. The reason why is easy access to a keyboard, people feeling stronger when not faced with their victim but also, easy access to websites making bullying into a preferred tool.
Ask.fm is just one of those very tools. You might have heard of the website if you’re living in Ireland because it has been linked to several cases of vicious cyber-bullying, leading to the suicides of two teenage girls.
In the past three months, four bullied online, so you probably understand my fear for family members and friends when I found out what some people anonymously write on people’s profiles. According to the Irish website Be Safe Web: “From looking at this website, I’m shocked at the very public conversations that are happening in this forum. I’ve seen conversations where ‘people’ are anonymously telling a 13 year old girl to die as she’s not pretty enough or telling a 14 year old boy to kill himself as he’s gay.” (http://bewebsafe.net/index.php/2012/09/beware-of-ask-fm/)took their own life because they were
You feel utter hopelessness when children, teens and adults commit suicide because of being bullied. Who do you bring to justice? Parents, spouses, internet providers? With new technologies and social media, it has taken on a totally new dimension: the vastness of cyberspace, where you can “hide” behind the anonymity of a laptop, desktop, mobile phone or tablet. It’s easy tormenting others in the knowledge that you’ll never be caught. Websites like Ask.fm do not give me much hope in people being brought to justice.
Below four people died after taking their own life in Ireland. Four in the space of three months time.
∞ Ciara Pugsley, aged 15 from County Leitrim, passed away in September 2012
∞ Erin Gallagher, aged 13 from County Donegal, passed away on October 27th 2012
∞ Shannon Gallagher, aged 15 and sister of Erin, passed away in early December because she could not live without her sister
Who are these people who bullied them and therefore have blood on their hands? Who are those ignorant, selfish, stupid idiots who play with other people’s feelings, and lives? Who are those that hide behind their login names and passwords?
Mark Terebin, founder of the Latvia based, anonymous question and answer website Ask.fm, where two of the Irish teens were bullied on, said that the problem is this: “UK and Irish teens are crueller than teens from other countries.” I am simply lost for words when I read his response as to why Irish teens are being bullied on his website. He earns millions on a website out to get nastiness from people so basically he doesn’t give a damn as long as he can cash in on the hurt other people experience.
Anti-bullying is a cause I always cared about. Even if/when I physically can’t keep children off the likes of Ask.fm, at least I want to try and spread the word because we need children to know about the dangers the internet can pose. It’s not always the useful and necessary tool we want it to be, increasingly it’s turning into a blame and shame tool. That’s something books have never done.
As someone who was bullied myself during the first few years of primary school, memories come flooding back when I hear of kids being singled out by cruel children’s bad behaviour. I wore glasses, came from divorced parents and I suppose I wasn’t the prettiest girl of the class, which meant I was an easy target. Children are very impressionable and they quickly believe what others tell them. Memories of it always stuck in the back of my mind because at that time, it had an impact on my confidence and I had to learn how to trust again.
They say bullying changes you: you look for solitude or you turn into a bully yourself. Gladly I didn’t turn out a bully, but for a time my defense mechanism was to withdraw and I was afraid to go to school and afraid to walk past certain children in school, or afraid to say something. When I was around 9 or 10, I cried daily in class and I was afraid to do almost anything because the boy sitting next to me constantly humiliated and harassed me. Suffice to say that there is a lot of truth in the saying that children can be very cruel.
In the end I think the bullying somehow shaped me because I swore not to go down that road myself and to help other people instead of being nasty. Either way, those years were not my finest and I looked forward to the day I would be strong enough to stand up against nasty creatures. And now I am. I’m better than those memories now because I moved on. I’ve forgiven the people that bullied me, and I hope they realize that what they did was just wrong.
If you’re in Ireland and you are affected by bullying, please reach out and take note of these phone numbers and links:
* Childline: 1800 666656, or text “list” to 50101
* Parentline: 1890 927277
* Teen Ireland: 1800 833634
* Console 24/7 helpline: 1800 201890
* 3Ts 24/7 suicide prevention helpline: 1800 247100, or text “help” to 51444
* HSE suicide prevention helpline: 1800 742745
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