A Call to Delete Cyberbullying This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

August 21, 2013
Death is something we all face eventually. It’s something we have to deal with and accept because, ironically, it’s part of life. We often associate it with old people who’ve lived long, full lives. But sometimes death steals someone too soon and needlessly, and it’s difficult to accept. Amanda Cummings is just one sad example.

Fifteen-year-old Amanda lived in Staten Island, New York, and was tormented by peers who harassed her in school and on Facebook. Condescending and cruel words were flung at her – in real life and virtually – and convinced this beautiful girl with a bright future that she had no reason to live. She felt so worthless that two days after Christmas, she threw herself in front of a bus, a suicide note in her pocket. Her death forced her community to acknowledge the dire consequences of cyberbullying.

Bullying at school has always been an issue. Who hasn’t had something bad said about them? Recently, however, bullying has expanded its grip to social networking sites. Unlike face-to-face bullying in school, there is no escape from cyberbullying after the last bell of the school day rings. Rather than home being a sanctuary, technology has turned it into an unchaperoned playground where bullies run rampant, completely hidden from teachers and concerned adults. Everything shared online becomes a target, and unlike face-to-face bullying, the torture can be seen and shared by anyone with access to the Internet. And worse, it can be revisited by the victim again and again.

Amanda Cummings is not alone. There have been too many stories in the media about teens committing suicide as a result of online bullying. In Amanda’s case, even her posts where she was reaching out for help were ridiculed. She didn’t want to report her tormentors because she was afraid the bullying would only get worse, so she decided to live with it. And then she decided she couldn’t live with it anymore and had to stop it – the only way she knew how. Even when Amanda was in the hospital, before she succumbed to her injuries, bullies continued to post cruel comments on her Facebook page. If that wasn’t heartless enough, the abuse continued on the memorial page set up after her funeral.

There is nothing we can do to help the teens who have ended their lives because of cyberbullying, but we can prevent more from succumbing to the pressure. We can help those teens who are beaten down. I challenge my fellow high school students to take a stand against cyberbullying. No matter how tempting or funny “jokes” at another’s expense on social networking sites may be, don’t take part in dealing out malicious comments or encouraging those who do. Stop and think about how you would feel if you logged on to find that others were making fun of you.

In my state of New York, lawmakers have taken steps toward classifying online bullying as a hate crime that will result in strong punishment for bullies. Reach out to your lawmakers and encourage them to create similar legislation. In the meantime, if you witness someone being abused online, take a screenshot and share it with an adult, whether it’s a guidance counselor, your parent, or the victim’s parent. Anything is better than staying silent; silence allows cyberbullying to continue and could result in suicide.

Let your voice be heard. Reach out to victims and tell them how much they are worth. Cancel out the millions of nasty comments with words of praise. Make victims aware of their value as human beings. Nothing is more important than a friend in dark times.

You can be the one who helps someone find strength. Don’t let anyone die believing they are useless. Let Amanda Cummings’s story stand as a reminder of what cyberbullying can do.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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