Jessica Laney, 16: Ask.fm Named in Yet Another Teen Suicide
Sunday night, December 9th, 16-year-old Jessica Laney ended her young life. Friends say cyberbullying endured on the infamous website Ask.fm was at the root of the suicide. That’s strike three!I don’t know which is more maddening: the fact that now three teenagers that we know about have ended their lives after enduring relentless cyberbullying on the same website, or that the officials in this case are reciting the same road-weary lines that we hear time after time.
“Our thoughts and prayers go to the Jessica Marie Laney’s family as they deal with their loss. (Pasco County Sheriff’s Office) is not aware of any formal complaint to the Pasco School District or PSO about her being bullied,” said Doug Tobin, Public Information Officer for the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.
Ask.fm is under fire, and rightfully so. In just the past three months, three teenaged girls have ended their lives because of reportedly being severely cyberbullied on the website…a website where one can post and comment anonymously, leaving them free to menace, harass, and abuse without fear of retribution. Obviously, there’s a problem afoot that needs to be addressed. The question is, however, “how do we go about addressing it in a way that will be effective? Do we call for the website to simply be shut down? There’s a petition circulating right now that calls for exactly that. If you believe that’s the answer, here’s the link for you to go and sign the petition. Will shutting down the beleaguered website solve the problem? Or, will the guilty parties simply find other websites to go to with their menacing activities? In all likelihood, the latter would come into play. And, that presents a bigger, even more realistic problem that we’re seemingly overlooking: these young people who are continuing to do this have absolutely no regard for human life and need to be held accountable. But, then, there’s the issue of the parents of those who do the bullying.
Listen, here’s breaking news for all who don’t already know it: there is a two-headed epidemic in our society today that’s decimating today’s young generation: bullying and bully-related suicides. Apparently, that news has yet to reach a portion of our population because, with as much as bullying and bully-related teen suicide is in the news, these occurrences are not only continuing to happen, they are increasing in both numbers and intensity. For these kids to be posting comments like “why don’t you go kill yourself?” or “nobody even likes you, anyway” or “everybody would be better off if you were dead” even though bullying, cyberbullying, and bully-related teen suicide are all in the news regularly, one can only draw one conclusion: they don’t give a damn about human life. And, that level of indifference can only point back to the homes.
Will holding these troubled young people legally responsible for cases of bullying and bully-related suicide make a difference? We can look at New Jersey for answers. With one of the nation’s toughest anti-bullying laws on the books, the teens responsible in the Lennon Baldwin bully-related suicide were charged and jailed for the bullying that led up to the suicide. In fact, an attack on Lennon by one of the three young men was caught on video. The two juveniles involved were sentenced to two years probation, which sounds like a wrist slap, to be sure, but it keeps them on a short leash for the next two years. The third person, an adult at the time of the assault and consequent bullying that pushed Lennon over the edge, is still awaiting his fate. Is this what is needed to, once-and-for-all, bring this chapter to an end? Or, is this just putting a bandage on a gaping wound?
Then, there’s the parents. The reality is that when the shit hits the fan and someone is actually forced to answer for their actions, there’s always a parent, or parents, who quickly utters the “my-child-would-never-do-anything-to-harm-anyone” clause. Human nature, perhaps, yet reckless and irresponsible in these cases.
What’s needed are wholesale changes in how we are going about this. We can continue to talk about it until we’re blue in the face. It’s not changing anything! We can continue to shake our heads and say all of the appropriate catch-phrases that comes along with these tragedies. Pick one. It’s not changing anything!! First and foremost, in every school and in every home across the country (and, around the world!), we have to have sit-down, face-to-face, honest dialogue about what’s going on and what definitive steps we can take, starting today!, to prevent it from continuing. WHATEVER IT TAKES!!! Secondly, as it continues to happen from this day forward, there needs to be real accountability and real consequences. Period. I mean, come on, is it really acceptable, at this stage of the game, to hear a young person utter the meaningless words “I (we) were just playing around. I (we) didn’t mean for him/her to do this.”? Emphatically, the answer is no! It is not acceptable, if only for the simple reason that we’ve seen this in the news and on social media sites long enough now to have a full understanding that this is a serious problem…an epidemic. And, real lives are being lost. And, finally, it’s time to hold these law enforcement agencies and school officials’ feet to the fire. They’re getting off completely scot-free! “Our records indicates no reports of bullying”. Not acceptable. Dig deeper. Work harder. Erase that culture you’ve helped create that allows these youngsters to feel comfortable in continuing to bully and cyberbully even as it continues to lead to teenagers ending their lives. As long as they understand that there will be no real consequences, they have no compelling reason to change their behaviors.For the sake of Jessica Laney, and the far-too-many who have gone before her, it’s time to quit talking about how sad, how outrageous this is and start doing some things that will bring this scourge to a screeching halt.
Rest in peace, Jessica.
**SUICIDE IS NEVER, EVER THE ANSWER!!!! TALK TO SOMEONE! SEEK HELP! DON’T. GIVE. UP.**
WHOF SUICIDE PREVENTION
Written by Ron Kemp
December 12, 2012 at 7:09 pm
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