Most of us were shocked and saddened at the suicide of 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick. Rebecca lived in Lakeland, Florida, and according to the website Heavy.com, she was last seen alive leaving for school on the morning of September 9, 2013. She was reported missing at 7:00pm that evening. Around 2:30am the morning of September 10, 2013, Rebecca's lifeless body was discovered.
Rebecca's parents and the community were stunned at this news. As investigators struggled to get to the bottom of why a child would commit suicide, frightening details began to emerge. What unfolded was a real-life tale as ugly as the 70's movie “Carrie”. We all knew that that something was amiss when the police arrested two female suspects just this past Monday, October 14, 2013. It turns out that these girls had somehow managed to allegedly play Pied Piper to at least 15 other kids and lead them in a savage bullying attack on Rebecca.
Even after Rebecca's parents removed her from school in 2012 to protect her from the constant harassment, the assaults took on a cyberistic twist. The same things that make the internet and social media advantageous to companies and advertisers, e.g. it’s instantaneous, far-reaching, and easily accessible, is the same thing that can make them deadly in the wrong or ignorant hands.
This case seems to be a mixture of many things that went wrong. The facts are chilling. It includes: a gang pack mentality reminiscent of the manic neighbors in the Twilight Zone's “Monsters are Due on Maple Street” episode; girls barely old enough to see PG-rated movies without an adult insanely jealous over lost "love"; and this hotbed of tortuous emotions targeted at a young girl who could not escape the darts of cyber arrows because she, like many of us adults, are intrinsically attached to mobile devices, computers, and social media as a way of life. It's become a way we communicate, while becoming more isolated. Whether we call them friends, followers, or fans, it’s implied that these people like us. So more time we spend in front of our devices, the more real and personal these hurtful insults can be.
This young lady lost her life over meanness, plain and simple. Yes, we have to continue to instill in our young people a kinder, gentler nature. At the same time we must warn them that everyone is not kind. Let's give them the names and phone numbers of specific people they can go to in the schools who have committed themselves to squashing out the bully epidemic.
Finally, many people are in an uproar that these children have been arrested. I too believe in the innocent nature of children. But someone or something has exposed these girls to a hardness of heart well beyond their years. Doing something wrong and regretting it is one thing, but the 14-year-old's response on Facebook "Yes IK I bullied REBECCA nd she killed her self but IDGAF," the Facebook post read. Grady Judd, sheriff of Polk County, Florida, said the online vernacular meant "I don't give a (expletive)." absolutely lent itself to an arrest being made.
There have always been bullies trying to rule the playground. But the difference is their weapons are now much more sophisticated and in many cases, deadly. Let's continue to love, protect, and train our kids about life, feelings, and consequences.
My prayers and condolences to the family and friends of Rebecca Ann Sedwick. May she rest in peace.
**1-800-273-8255 - Please call this number immediately if you think you cannot go on, or have any thoughts of suicide. Or share this number if you know someone you think might feel this way. This is the toll free number for the Suicide Prevention Services of America. They are there to help children, teens, and adults. They will listen to you.