Amanda Todd has been the top story in the news these days; a teen that recently committed suicide after years of endless harassment. What makes this story different is that, prior to her suicide, she chronicled her struggle in a nine minute YouTube video clip where flashcards detail what led up to her final end. It is ironic that it was the internet that began her downward spiral after she was blackmailed by a man she met online and sent a topless photo to when she was 12 years old. When that photo was later distributed throughout the internet, she became a social outcast and the victim of schoolyard bullying that eventually culminated in a physical assault in front of her school.

The story is a sad one and illustrates not only the effects of harassment but also the dark side of social media, the internet in general and how it can influence our daily lives. In a recent Canadian study, 78% of teen suicides were bullied both at school and online.

Amanda Todd — In Her Own Words:
“Hello! I’ve decided to tell you about my never ending story. In 7th grade I would go with friends on webcam. Meet and talk to new people. Then got called stunning, beautiful, perfect, etc… Then wanted me to flash… So I did… 1 year later…. I got a msg on facebook from him… Don’t know how he knew me. It said… if you don’t put on a show for me I will send ur boobs. He knew my adress, school, relatives, friends, family names. Christmas break… knock at my door at 4am. It was the police … my photo was sent to everyone. Then I got sick. Anxiety, major deppresion and panic disorder. I then moved and got into Drugs + Alcohol. My anxiety got worse… couldn’t go out. A year past and the guy came back with my new list of friends and school. But made a facebook page. My boobs were his profile pic… Cried every night, lost all my friends and respect people had for me… again… Then nobody liked me, name calling, judged…. I can never get that Photo back. It’s out there forever…. I started cutting… I promised myself never again… Didn’t have any friends and I sat at lunch alone. So I moved schools again…. Everything was better even though I sat still alone at lunch in the library everyday. After a month later I started talking to an old guy friend. We back fourth text and he started to say he… liked me… led me on. He had a girlfriend then he said come over my gf’s on vacation. So I did… huge mistake…. He hooked up with me…. I thought he like me…. 1 week later I get a text get out of your school. His girlfriend and 15 others came including hiself… The girl and 2 others just said look around nobody like you in front of my new school 1501 people… A guy than yelled just punch her already So she did.. She threw me to the ground a punched me several times. Kids filmed it. I was all alone and left on the ground. I felt like a joke in this world. I thought nobody deserves this :/ I was alone.. I lied and said it was my fault and my idea. i didn’t want him getting hurt, I thought he really liked me but he just wanted the sex… Someone yelled punch her already. Teachers ran over but I just went and layed down in a ditch and my dad found me. I wanted to die so bad.. when he brought me home I drank bleach. It killed me inside and I thought I was gonna actully die. Ambulence came brought me to the hospital and flushed me. After I got home all I saw was on facebook — she deserved it. did you wash the mud out of your hair? I hope she’s dead. Nobody cared… I moved away to another city to my moms. Another school… I didn’t wanna press charges because I wanted to move on. 6 months has gone by… people are posting pics of beach, clorex and ditches, tagging me… I was doing alot better too… Then said… She should try a different bleach. i hope she dies this time isn’t so stupid. They said I hope she sees this and kills herself.. Why do I get this? I messed up but why follow me. I left your guys city… Im constanty crying now.. everyday I think why am I still here? My anxiety is horrible now.. never went out this summer all from my past.. lifes never getting better.. cant go to school meet or be with people… constantly cutting. Im really depressed. Im on anti deppresants now and councelling and a month ago this summer I overdosed… in hospital for 2…”

More and more, this type of conflict is finding its way into the workplace. Children who have used bullying and intimidation as a coping mechanism, grow up as adults who cannot deal with situations appropriately and resort to their ingrained behaviours. This is the root of workplace violence.

Wikipedia describes workplace bullying as “the tendency of individuals or groups to use persistent aggressive or unreasonable behavior against a co-worker or subordinate. Workplace bullying can include such tactics as verbal, nonverbal, psychological, physical abuse and humiliation. This type of aggression is particularly difficult because, unlike the typical forms of school bullying, workplace bullies often operate within the established rules and policies of their organization and their society.” A 2007 survey found that 13% of US employees report being currently bullied, 24% have been bullied in the past and an additional 12% say they have witnessed workplace bullying.

Workplace violence reduces productivity, worker morale, employee retention, can lead to lawsuits and needs to be routed out. As Amanda Todd was crying out for help, so do many workers and it’s important to look for the warning signs of not just the victim but also the abuser. Having a clear internet, email and online policy can help address some of the avenues that harassment now takes.

It is easy to hide behind your computer anonymously. Even after Amanda’s suicide, the bullying continued as people posted comments on her video that they are glad she is dead. Travis Price, an anti-bullying advocate has said that “when bullying goes online, it takes on a new dimension that is difficult for victims to escape. Even within the confines of their home, they can effectively come face-to-face with their tormenters whenever they log onto Facebook or check their email.”

Recently, the hacker group Anonymous has claimed to have located the man who first blackmailed Amanda. Now the tides have shifted and the man believed to have started it all has now become a target of harassment after his name and address were posted online.

Sadly, Amanda Todd’s case is not unique. Bullying at home, in schools and workplaces happens every day. YouTube is raft with clips from people just like Amanda that have told their story in flashcards. In one such video, a girl named Kaelynn holds up a flashcard that reads:

“Bullies Kill.
Words Scar.
Rumors Destroy.”

She’s right.