Ginta: Bystanders have role to play in bullying

What can be said about a 15-year-girl who commits suicide as a result of bullying? Cyberbullying to be precise. If you watch her video be warned, it will break your heart. You won't hear her voice, but the screams are deafening. If you ever felt lonely and misjudged you'll cry. Her name was Amanda Todd.

Today, here we are, newspapers telling the story and adults gasping and pitching in their two cents. Where were we yesterday? And what about tomorrow? What will we do about it? What will a social-network giant like Facebook do about it? After all, this happened in its backyard. It's not the first case of cyberbullying there and surely not the last one either.

How alone and scared must someone feel to opt for the one thing that cannot be undone? How deep into despair has a child been pushed to commit suicide? What can go so horribly wrong to make a child - a teenager is still a child in many ways - take her life?

Bullying isn't new. It takes three to dance this horrible tango - the bully, the bullied and the bystander. The first two are clearly defined, we know their roles. But bystanders have a role as well and in today's social media world, we're all witnesses and bystanders.

Do we watch violent acts on YouTube and read spiteful comments on Facebook? That encourages the bully, and makes us aggressors as well. Do we do nothing? That, too, is like joining in. Or do we recognize the injustice of it all and offer support and acceptance to the bullied? Standing up for someone who is being bullied is tough for children, "tweens" and teenagers because they don't want to stand out or, even worse, be bullied themselves. It isn't easy for adults either. But isn't it time we try?

The video that Amanda put together tells her story, how it started and how it spiralled out of control. She tells of being judged, of being lonely and sad. She describes being exposed on social networks like Facebook. She says, "I have nobody I need somebody."

There's no threat there. It's a plea. Heartbreaking and unheard. She was told to kill herself.

What can we do to prevent children from losing their will to live? Be there. Know your children, talk to them, offer them the most precious gift of all - unconditional acceptance. Children and teens need to be accepted, they need a safe place to be and they need to know they are not alone, should anything become a threat.

A Twitter hashtag, #RIPAmanda, has hundreds of people posting their thoughts and outrage. Some continue to judge. Her story and her actions are being dissected and some think she was selfish to commit suicide. The same is happening on Facebook. Judgment kills in more ways than one. Tweens and teens are being bullied as we speak. Amanda did what we all do - she made a mistake. At some point, she gave in to peer pressure. Later on, that mistake became the very weapon she was bludgeoned with over and over. Until last week, when she opted out.

Amanda was not selfish. She was lonely and in pain, like many bullied children and teens. As of today my Facebook account is closed. I refuse to be a bystander.

Daniela Ginta is a scientist, mother, writer and blogger. Reach her at daniela.ginta@gmail.com.

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