Teens use mobile apps to bully peers
Tricia Norman thought she was being a conscientious mom as she kept tabs on her daughter's social media accounts. But, Norman found the task of monitoring online communications difficult, as the apps were constantly changing. The recent trend of disappearing apps, where messages sent can easily disappear, have raised the alarm of several parents. The apps, which can be used for sexting or inappropriate messaging, have also raised the alarm of law enforcement.
Especially when something goes terribly wrong.Rebecca Sedwick had just started 6th grade and was a good student but her mother says school was a challenge as she was bullied relentlessly. Sedwick's mother, Tricia Norman, closed the 12-year-old's Facebook account and pulled her out of school but she didn't know about her cell phone messaging apps. The last time Norman saw her daughter, Rebecca was on her cell phone. "To me she is still and always will be part of this family, so I try to include her in everything."Norman said. Later that night Rebecca took her own life. "When you stand at the base of a cement silo and see a 12-year-old child crumpled on the ground because she jumped to her death, it changes your life forever and when you find out bullying was behind it, that frustrates you." Norman said. Polk County Florida Sheriff Grady Judd found out disappearing apps may have contributed to Sedwick's death. One of those apps is Ask.fm which was founded in the former Soviet Republic of Latvia. The website boasts over 100 million users worldwide, some of which were Rebecca's bullies. When news of Rebecca's death went viral, her mother says the company deleted Rebecca's page, which makes it impossible for law enforcement to see what was said the night she died. In just over one year, there have been more than a dozen news reports around the world which link suicide to bullying on Ask.fm. The company says they cooperate with law enforcement and recently added a "safety" page to its website. In a statement to CNN the company said: Reports of suicide cases often tend to present premature and simplified conclusions about tragic events, which are always a complex overlap of different factors.Without the circumstances surrounding Rebecca's death, no one can exactly say why she took her own life. But it's not just bullies. Hard-to-trace messaging draws all kinds of criminal activity. Shawn Henry was the executive assistant director of the FBI. "There's a term we use called going dark -- law enforcement is losing the authorized visibility into many of these sites, because they're not maintaining, they're not regulated to maintain data, and law enforcement is losing the ability to lawfully collect that information." Henry said.
In the case of Rebecca Sedwick's death, Sheriff Grady Judd did charge two teens with contributing to her death. The charges were later dropped after the two girls went into counseling.
(Video Source: CNN)