Opinion

News Views: Amanda's tale

The tragic tale of Amanda Todd is evolving by the minute. Sadly, it was several years of torment and abuse, as described on cue cards in her nine-minute Youtube video, that led her to take her own life last week, a month shy of her 16th birthday.

It was not a sweet life, but one that has resonated around the world, as evidenced by the 14.5 million views of her trending video. It took a wrong turn when Amanda was coaxed into flashing her breasts while participating in an online chat several years ago. That photo was then repeatedly shared with her family and friends, teachers and strangers, after she refused to perform more. Every time she changed schools, it followed her, as did the taunts – ‘whore,' ‘porn star.’

It’s difficult enough for teenagers to keep their heads up in the hallways if they have even a pimple on their face. Amanda must have felt like she was naked all the time. She struggled with anxiety and panic disorder, depression, abused drugs and alcohol. She admittedly made poor decisions, which led to more abuse, bullying. She was physically assaulted, then tried to kill herself.

Amanda received help. Police visited her and investigated, as they continue to do. We don’t know for certain what caused Amanda to take her own life. But bullies are being blamed, and possibly an online pedophile.

That’s what the video is about. That is her legacy.

Watch it. Read her words. She felt alone. She needed someone. That is what bullying is, not just the harmful words, but the isolation. It can be devastating, especially to a young person.

Amanda didn’t want others to feel the way she did, for people to be quick to judge, to pile on, rather to speak up if someone is being mistreated. And she used Youtube, just as many young girls before her, to spread her message.

That is the overarching story here, the role electronic information sharing played in this tragedy, the dangers of it. From the chat room to group emails to social media to Youtube, to who knows how many text messages, information can be shared in an instant. People aren’t as forgiving on the other side of a screen as they are in person. And as Amanda said herself, she could never get the picture back.

There will always be bullies as long as there are vulnerable people. And, unfortunately, as seen with the memorial Facebook page for Amanda, some people are ill.

We can teach our younger ones to watch out for them, to be careful, how to avoid pitfalls, help pick them up and brush off when they do stumble.

Teach them many things.

But don’t forget compassion.

– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News

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