Amanda began her story in 7th grade at age 12 when she flashed an unknown man via a webcam chat. She goes on to explain how this one action lead to a series of events that included the unknown man sending the snagged photo to everyone she knew. Amanda recounts the relentless stalking and harassment she faced as she tried to move on. She ended her story by asking for help – in her own words, "I have nobody. I need someone." Amanda ended her life on October 10, 2012 at age 15.
Amanda's story is tragic. It's crucial for kids to understand that growing up online – taking risks and pushing boundaries – could bring unforeseen consequences if someone records and reveals those actions to others. In Amanda's case, she was stalked and exploited; and the online stalker's actions were exacerbated by the bullying behaviors of some of her peers. If Amanda felt as though she had a friend – someone - her story may have ended differently. It's a clear message that we can no longer be bystanders. If we witness bullying, we need to offer help whether we take action ourselves or seek out someone who can.
As Amanda's video spreads, take a moment to talk to your children about her story. Here are some talking points that may help your discussion:
• Friends of friends are actually strangers. Social networking enables you to share large amounts of information which could pose risks when shared with someone you don't really know.
• Be cautious of what you post and share with others. Once you share content - pictures, videos, stories, artwork or any other originally created work - with just one person online, you relinquish control over its potential distribution and use.
• Webcams are a window into your world so be careful of who you let in. Dress and behave as you would when having a friend over. Always remember images can be snagged and shared.
• Remember to have respect for each other - online or offline. It's not okay to say hurtful things to someone just because they can't see you and you can't see them. Every user ID or avatar represents a person so think before you post. Ask yourself how you would feel on the other side.
• Don't be a bystander. If you see someone who is being bullied, take action. And, if you don't feel as though you can intervene directly for fear of retribution or simply not knowing what to do, go seek the help of a trusted adult so that they can step in.
• If you are being bullied:
1) Keep the digital evidence (you may need it if the behavior escalates).
2) Block the bully (privacy preferences typically allow users to block others in chat, e-mail, instant messaging and even on social networks).
3) Tell a trusted adult.
4) Report it to the service provider (most have policies against harassment).
5) Report it to the school if it carries over into that environment.
6) If the bullying escalates to threats of physical harm, report it to law enforcement.
Learn more about bullying at: StopBullying.gov