June 15, 2008 |
It's about that time again when the internet gets tangled up with tragedy and vindictive fingers are pointed hither and thither. This instance involves the tragic suicide of a teenager who was said to have been picked on and made fun of for his "emo" appearance on teenage social network Bebo .
Young Sam Leeson, only 13-years old, hung himself from the ceiling fan in his room after being mocked time and time again for his appearance. The "emo" culture is usually associated with both alternative stylings and being involved in the "emotional" music scene. Many emo youths wear "skinny jeans," as they're known, and Leeson was certainly aware of what his peers thought about his clothing style.
After his death, Leeson's parents went through his computer and found messages on his Bebo profile from other users that led his parents to believe that cyberbullying was the direct cause of Leeson's suicide. The mourning parents are outraged that social networks provide the platform for bullying young and impressionable youths, and are demanding Bebo and other social networks crack down on the cyberbullying.
I am really torn up over this tragedy, because there really can't be any acceptable solution for either side. I feel for the loss of Leeson, and understand how hard life can be when trying to fit in and find a community of peers in which to find acceptance. The beauty of social networking sites, on one hand, is that Sam might have found a group of similarly-inclined youths for support on Bebo; that very well may have been the case, but usually on the negative aspects get reported in cases like this. Conversely, having a public profile on a large social site can mean there are exponentially more youths out there to mock young folks like Sam.
If the Leeson parents believe that social networking killed Sam, then they would have been wise to monitor Sam's computer activities if they had any fear he might be bullied. I've always been of the belief that you can't blame the weapon for the actions of the attacker. Unfortunately, many will view this tragedy as the media will spin it — the sad and premature end to the promising life of a young man at the hands of social networking.
If you start pointing fingers at every single individual who ever bullied Sam, then you need to start taking your children out of school and away from society in the interests of sheltering them from harm. But then, are you doing them more harm than good? If mother birds never push their young out of their nests, they'll never learn to fly.