Teens, social media and suicide

This is something totally off-topic but it’s something that is becoming more and more a regular news story. It’s making me afraid, short of not freaking out because Ask.fm is the reason why. You might have heard of this website if you’re living in Ireland because it has been linked to several cases of vicious cyber-bullying, leading to the suicides of 2 teenage girls.

In the past 3 months, 5 Irish people took their own life because they were bullied online, so you probably understand my fear and gasping for air when I found out what some people anonymously write on people’s profiles. According to the Irish website Be Safe Web: “From looking at this website, I’m shocked at the very public conversations that are happening in this forum. I’ve seen conversations where ‘people’ are anonymously telling a 13-year-old girl to die as she’s not pretty enough or telling a 14-year-old boy to kill himself as he’s gay.” (Beware of Ask.FM)

It’s just so sad when children, teens and adults commit suicide because of being bullied and I wish it would stop for their sake, and hope that other people will never have to deal with bullying, online or elsewhere. With new technologies and social media, it has taken on a totally new dimension: cyber-bullying, or where you can “hide” behind the anonymity of a laptop, desktop, mobile phone or tablet. It’s easy tormenting others in the knowledge that you’ll never be caught. Websites like Ask.fm do not give me much hope and if honest… what is happening with teenage kids scares the living daylights out of me.

Ciara Pugsley, aged 15 from County Leitrim, passed away in September 2012

Amanda Todd, aged 15 from Vancouver in Canada, passed away on October 10th 2012

Erin Gallagher, aged 13 from County Donegal, passed away on October 27th, 2012

Shannon Gallagher, aged 15 and sister of Erin, passed away in early December because she could not live without her sister

Shane McEntee, aged 56 from County Meath, passed away on December 21st, 2012

Above 5 people died after taking their own life. Five in the space of three months time.

Who are these people who bullied them and therefore have blood on their hands? Who are those ignorant, selfish, stupid idiots who play with other people’s feelings, and lives? Who are those that hide behind their login names and passwords?

Mark Terebin, founder of Latvia based, anonymous question and answer website Ask.fm, where two of the Irish teens were bullied on, said that the problem is this: The UK and Irish teens are crueller than teens from other countries.”

I am simply lost for words when I read his response as to why Irish teens are being bullied on his website. He earns millions on a website out to get nastiness from people – because of the anonymity on Ask.fm he clearly wants people to just misbehave in every way possible – so basically he doesn’t give a dicky-bird as long as he can cash in on the hurt others experience.

Anti-bullying is a cause I always cared about. Even if/when I physically can’t keep children off the likes of Ask.fm, at least I want to try and spread the word because we need children to know about the dangers the internet can pose. It’s not always the useful and necessary tool we want it to be, increasingly it’s turning into a blame and shame tool. That’s something books have never done.

I was a victim of bullying myself throughout primary school because I was an easy target. Children are very impressionable and they quickly believe what others tell them. For some reason, the bullying finished when I went into my teenage years but it continued to impact on my confidence and I had to learn how to trust again.

They say bullying changes you: you look for solitude or you turn into a bully yourself. Gladly I didn’t turn out a bully, but for a time my defence mechanism was to withdraw and I was afraid to go to school and afraid to walk past certain children in school, or afraid to say something. When I was around 9 or 10, I cried daily in class and I was afraid to do almost anything because the boy sitting next to me constantly humiliated and harassed me. Suffice to say that there is a lot of truth in the saying that children can be very cruel.

In the end, I think the bullying somehow shaped me because I swore not to go down that road myself and to help other people instead of being nasty. Either way, those years were not my finest and I looked forward to the day I would be strong enough to stand up against nasty creatures. And now I am. I’m better than those memories now because I moved on. I’ve forgiven the people that bullied me, and I hope they realize that what they did was just wrong.

Update April 28th, 2018: The Vodafone Ireland Foundation in partnership with ISPCC Childline have created a range of supports to help you to BeStrong Online. You can download the free help information here


* Childline: 1800 666666, or text “list” to 50101 or visit Childline here. Tweet them on @ISPCCChildline ‏or visit their Facebook page here
* Parentline: LoCall 1890 927277 or 01 8733500, Twitter @ParentlineIre or Facebook
* Pieta House: Suicide support service; Helpline (24hr): 1800 247 247

Cyberbullying advice websites:

* Expert advice at webwise.ie
* Be Web Safe

© Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2013. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

5 thoughts on “Teens, social media and suicide

  1. Goed geschreven, meiske. Misschien kan er iets gedaan worden, want het begint serieuze vormen aan te nemen, en het is zo onpersoonlijk. Het wordt op de duur een heksenjacht. En het gepeupel doet gretig mee he!

    1. Dankjewel mama :) En ja… als meer mensen moesten opstaan en zeggen dat het inderdaad een ware plaag is, dan kan er misschien iets worden aangedaan. Het is triest, intriest als je denkt dat tieners er het leven door laten.

  2. After Erin’s and Ciara’s death calls have been made to better regulate websites like Ask.fm, but the problem is whether blocking websites like this will stop children from being targeted online. Closing a website would more than likely generate more media, leading to other quick-money-grabbing people setting up a similar website.

    If it were up to me, I’d contact my European minister and try to convince him/her to look into it, because it cannot be that precious children end their lives because of being bullied. I think 5 people in the space of just 3 months is more than enough.

    1. Apologies for not replying to this before! Yes, I will ask her what can be done because after hearing that another girl in the UK passed away by suicide, it is becoming very urgent.

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