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She wasn't old enough to know that nothing ruins your life forever.

Rebecca Ann Sedwick

Warning: This post deals with themes of suicide and may be triggering for some readers.

By LUCY ORMONDE

A 12-year-old girl is dead.

She’s dead because of a group of 15 other girls thought that they were better than her.

She’s dead because society failed her.

She’s dead because not enough people recognised her multiple cries for help.

Her name was Rebecca Ann Sedwick. But to family? She was simply, “Becca”.

The last time Rebecca’s mum, Trisha Norman saw her daughter alive was on the evening of September 8 this year, when Rebecca was sitting on the couch and playing with her phone.

Trisha said goodnight and went to bed. When she woke up the next morning, she assumed Rebecca had left early for school.

But Rebecca never went to school that day. She never returned home either.

It’s believed that Rebecca took her own life after enduring more than a year of relentless and hurtful bullying at school and on social media. This, from the US news:

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at a press conference Thursday that Rebecca Ann Sedwick had been “absolutely terrorized on social media” for more than a year before killing herself. Her body was found early Tuesday morning at a former cement plant. Sedwick was reported missing Monday night after she failed to come home from school.

Judd also said that Sedwick shared her plan to commit suicide with an online friend, identified as a 12-year-old boy living in North Carolina. Sedwick reportedly told the boy, “… I can’t take it anymore” and changed her screenname on a phone-messaging program, Kik Messenger, to “That Dead Girl.”

Rebecca

The bullying started last year when Rebecca was a student at Crystal Lake Middle School in Lakeland, Florida.

The bullying became so extreme that Rebecca was hospitalised for cutting herself. At that point, her mum closed her Facebook account down, took away her mobile phone use and even made her daughter move schools. She was desperate to protect her.

After changing schools and receiving counseling for a period of four months, it seemed like things were getting better for Rebecca.

But it now appears that that was far from true.

Police investigating Rebecca’s death have since discovered that the 12-year-old continued to be bullied through social media sites like Instagram (a photo sharing app), ask.fm (an app that allows users to ask anonymous questions), Kik (an app that acts as a private free messenger service), and Voxer (also a messenger service).

This from The New York Times:

… Rebecca became one of the youngest members of a growing list of children and teenagers apparently driven to suicide, at least in part, after being maligned, threatened and taunted online, mostly through a new collection of texting and photo-sharing cellphone applications.

Her suicide raises new questions about the proliferation and popularity of these applications and Web sites among children and the ability of parents to keep up with their children’s online relationships.

Rebecca’s mother Trisha told the New York Times that she went through her daughter’s phone on occasion but wasn’t aware of the apps and what they did: “I had never even heard of them; I did go through her phone but didn’t even know… I had no reason to even think that anything was going on. She was laughing and joking,” Trisha said.

But when the police searched Rebecca’s computer, they found search terms like “What is overweight for a 13-year-old girl?” and “How many over-the-counter drugs do you take to die?”

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When the police searched her phone and the messenger apps on it, they found messages from other students asking Rebecca: “Why are you still alive?” “Can u die please?”and “Why don’t you go and kill yourself?”

And that’s exactly what Becca did.

Last week, a candlelight vigil was held at the cement plant where Rebecca died. It was there that Rebecca’s uncle spoke to the crowd and the surrounding media.

“We’ve lost a beautiful child that had a bright future. For what reason? To be bullied?” he said. “Why? ‘Cause your clothes are better than hers? Your shoes look better than hers?”

It was his words that made me want to share Rebecca’s story with you today.

I’m not sure what we can do to stop cyber bullying. It’s a problem with a simple solution, but one that is impossible to achieve: asking that kids think about the effect of what they say and do; how they treat each other.

And it’s a problem that only seems to get bigger with the invention of each new app, that can be accessed be a teen with an internet connection or a smart phone. Apps that allow kids to bully, to harass and to hate. 24 hours a day.

What I do know is this: There are fifteen girls in Florida are now under investigation.

Ultimately they weren’t the ones who pushed Rebecca from that ledge, but it was their actions that led her there. So I sincerely hope they’re held accountable for the role they played in Rebecca’s death. They should be made example of.

Those girls – and every other person around the world who thinks it’s okay to taunt and tease others, especially children – needs to know that enough is enough. Not everyone is going to have things that are as nice as yours.  Not everyone is going to have the same opportunities as you. Not everyone is lucky.

People might not dress the same as you, they might not laugh at the same jokes as you, but that doesn’t make them any less of a person.

Rebecca was 12-year-old.

She wasn’t old enough to realise that things which seem like a big deal now, won’t have been of any significance in years to come. She wasn’t mature enough to understand that life moves on. She  didn’t realise that high school is only a tiny sliver of life and that she wouldn’t remember the names of the girls she knew then in years to come.

And now she’ll never be old enough to know. And that is completely unfair.

Be alert and alarmed: there’s a social media revolution that’s swept up your children and chances are, you have no idea what they’re doing online. The biggest mistake I see parents make is to bury their heads in the sand and dismiss social media as a silly fad for ‘young people’. To those parents I say: stop being an ostrich and wake up.

But, breathe: It’s not as overwhelming as it sounds. You can start by downloading this free report – 7 things parents need to know about social media right now.

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