According to the American Association of Suicidology, rates of suicide among 10 to 14-year-olds has grown 50 percent over the last three decades.

Social media has exploded over the past 10 years. It’s a place where communication between anyone is only a few clicks away. According to the cyberbullying hotline, “42 percent of teenagers with tech access report being cyberbullied over the past year.” Of those, 20 percent consider suicide, and one in 10 of those attempt it. Suicide is the third most common cause of death among teenagers. These statistics are heart-wrenching especially because it’s people hurting people (kids hurting kids) on purpose, and driving them to death through impersonal digital means.

If you search “teens suicide from cyberbullying” in Google, story after story of kids who have killed themselves because of a bully, pop up. A story by CNN stuck out to me because even after this young woman committed suicide in front of her parents because of cyberbullying, she continued to get harassed after her death. A couple days after she tragically died, a Facebook page was opened in her name. Many used it to write kind words about her, but people started posting vicious things like, “You finally did it, you’re a coward,” and “You should have done this a long time ago.” Of the stories I read, words like these were not unique.

Only in the past couple years has the law caught up with technology. When cyberbullying occurred in the past, not a lot could be done. Now, many states have signed into law that the bullies responsible will be punished. This still doesn’t stop it from happening. I would argue that schools should be held more accountable, especially if relevant incidents have previously been reported. The truth is, the majority of kids’ time, is at school. It’s where the ‘original bullying’ started. These days bullying has become even easier to get away with. Most of the time, if not all the time, other kids know when this is going on. Cyberbullying is unique in this way. Since you have a friends list, others can see what is being said to you and about you. This should be used as an advantage. Kids should utilize this to stick up for other kids. Kids should report bullying to adults or teachers. Cyberbullying should be one of the easiest things to stop since you can see exactly what’s being said and who is saying it. Instead, it’s on the rise, and so is suicide.

More awareness should be brought to this problem. More conversation should be brought to this problem. Many of the stories I read about teens who committed suicide, didn’t tell anyone, or downplayed what was going on. Conversations in schools need to be happening. Education about the dangers of the Internet needs to start being taught at an earlier age. For those who say things like, “Oh, kids need to be tougher,” I’m guessing most of them didn’t have the same technological access kids have today. I can’t imagine having Facebook and smartphones in high school. I’m extremely glad I didn’t. Cyberbullying wasn’t a word anyone knew. This epidemic has been growing rapidly. If people don’t do something about it, those numbers are going to continue to rise, and young people are going to continue to die too young.

letters@chronicle.utah.edu

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