What Wisdom can you find that is greater than “Kindness”? *Jean-Jacques Rousseau*
VICTORIA — Carol Todd said it was on a shopping trip to a Port Coquitlam mall that she realized just how much pain her daughter Amanda was suffering
“She got out of the car, walked to the doors and she couldn’t go in,” Todd said. “She turned white as a sheet and said her stomach hurt. I just stood there and watched her change.
“I had never really believed her until then. I would say something like, ‘Take a sip of water and get on with it.’”
That trip to the mall was in June 2012, less than six months before Amanda’s Oct. 10, 2012, suicide at the age of 15. Before she died, she made a video and posted it on YouTube, where it’s now been viewed 31 million times. In a series of flash cards, she explained how she had been tricked into revealing her breasts online and subsequently harassed, beaten and socially cast out at school.
Todd was in Sidney, B.C., at the Mary Winspear Centre on Thursday for a musical by the Mountain Dream Production, a drama group of teens and pre-teens. The play, called Like Me! Unlike Me?, was a dramatic call-out to young people to stop harassing and picking on each other.
Two of the actors, Samantha, 13, and Hailey, 11, said they didn’t fully understand just how permanent Internet images and posts are before the play.
“It’s like they are a fingerprint,” Samantha said. “I had sort of thought there was some sort of deep way you could get it out, but no.”
Hailey said the play drove home for her that retaliating when bullied or harassed is just not acceptable. “If someone is being mean to you it doesn’t mean you should be mean back.”
After the play, performed for middle school students, Todd stayed behind to warn the audience about the dangers of cyberbullying and stalking.
She is at the end of a six-week tour that has taken her across Canada and to Arizona and Ireland, warning of Internet dangers and discussing Amanda’s story.
At one point, she asked the audience for a show of hands of students who had used a cellphone after 10 p.m., or gone online to play games without their parents knowing. In both cases, more than half raised their hands.
Todd told the young people that both are dangerous habits, and warned of the dangerous anonymity the Internet offers.
The person who first contacted Amanda and coerced her into revealing her breasts had pretended to be a teenager, but was actually a man in his 30s living in the Netherlands. He has since been identified, arrested and jailed.
Todd said she discussed Internet safety with Amanda and even warned that she would check up on her. The family kept computer passwords in an envelope taped to the refrigerator. But it didn’t stop Amanda from being hurt.
Todd told the students not to be afraid to take fears, worries or even bad news to trusted adults. It might be parents, a teacher, someone at church or a youth group. Just don’t suffer alone, she said.
Todd urged the teens to reach out to each other, noting Amanda was harassed, tricked and even beaten by other teens before she killed herself. Changing schools several times didn’t work, since there was always someone, including the original perpetrator, who would put the word out.
Todd also warned the students about the enduring nature of material posted on the Internet.
As they grow up, she said, they will be applying to schools, programs, scholarship committees and for jobs. Almost certainly one of the first things people will do is search online records.
Todd said the Internet is not necessarily a bad thing. But everyone needs to understand, teach and talk about its dangers and how to best use it safely.
“It needs to be in our schools, in our families and our communities.”
In her 15 years, Amanda dealt with learning disabilities, a cyber predator, online bullying, social ostracization, assault, depression and anxiety, Todd said. When she killed herself, it was on World Mental Health Day.
“Amanda had a story and she had a message, and if I stay quiet about it, who is going to tell it?” Todd said. “I’ve always advocated for her as a child with learning needs and I think I’m still advocating for her.”
ARTICLE BY RICHARD WATTS, VICTORIA TIMES COLONIST MAY 30, 2015