Amanda Todd: Three Years Later
I still remember the first time I heard Amanda’s name. Global TV News in BC broadcast a story of a 15 year old girl who had taken her life in the lower mainland of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I live in the lower mainland so this story made me stop and think about why such a young girl would choose to end her life. I decided to start digging deeper to hear the real story of what led her to her unfortunate demise. What I found was not pretty and, until that moment, I had no idea just how dangerous online life could become.
Amanda’s story started a couple of years before her death when she started to visit web cam chat rooms which many of her peers were doing. It was a different time. Parent’s were not aware that their kids were visiting these types of sites and the danger which was associated with it. Amanda kept a secret life online and offline. Amanda was coerced by child predators in rooms meant to be non-adult who pretended to be her age, including making up an elaborate fake persona. No one told her of the dangers and how easy these predators would lie so one day she made a mistake which eventually led to her death in 2012.
Amanda started doing what is referred to as “shows” on webcam. A show is when the person on cam does something like show their talent or their body. At the time Amanda was going through the same changes as any other pre-teen and believed the lies telling her how sexy she was when she was just a child. What the perverts did was to “groom” her. Groom means to feed a victim whatever a person has to in order to get them to do what they want. This is used to groom children in sexual abuse cases. For perverts, they know exactly what to say in order to get what they want.
The perverts chatted in private forums on the dark net, filled with the nastiest of nasty content, and exchanged websites and potential victims names so when they entered any cam chat room they knew who to target immediately. One of the perverts who stalked Amanda Todd actually posts a complete conversation in one of these child predator forums.
The perverts zoned in on Amanda and decided that she would be an easy target. A man pretended to be a teen boy and started a conversation with Amanda. He knew that if he told her what she needed to hear, he could get her to do what he wanted. He groomed her for awhile until one day he asked her to “flash” her breasts, which she obliged. This child predator took a screencast or “screen recording” of her at the moment she lifted her shirt to show her breasts. He used that screencast to destroy her online and off.
The pervert had her Facebook info and each time Amanda refused to give him to his sick desires, he would contact all her friends on social media and get them to add him, saying he was going to be a new student at her school. Her friends added him. When she said no to this man, he contacted every friend telling them some pretty bad things and showing them Facebook pages with that same image of her flashing. Amanda tried to stop him from contacting her but nothing stopped him. She deleted one account and made a new one for him to find her and stalk her incessantly. She was terrified. Fifteen year old’s are not adults even though they would like to think so.
One such message was sent to a friend who then showed it to her parents, being scared for Amanda. The “RCMP” became involved and spoke to Amanda’s mom in December the year before her death. Her parents tried to help her in any way they can, though they were divorced at the time. Carol Todd was main custodial parent who Amanda lived with most of the time but she also spent time at her dad’s place. They were typical divorced parent’s of a child and each tried to give her what she needed when they were with her. They did nothing wrong. The one thing I know from being a parent of teenage girls is that you can talk all you want but if there’s a will there is a way. We were all teenagers once though technology was very different.
Amanda attempted to kill herself before she succeeded. One of the ways she tried was to drink bleach. I have to wonder just how bad she felt that she wanted to die in such a horrific way. She attended mental health facilities and outside counselling for depression and suicide attempts. The health care providers did nothing wrong. The one thing I do know is that if people want to kill themselves, they will and they won’t say a word before they do it. The people who scream out that they are suicide are asking for help and not serious about suicide but the person who does commit suicide will not say a word because they feel they are beyond help.
Offline Amanda has problems too. She had made a mistake of being with another girl’s boyfriend whom she had previously dated. What people didn’t know was that the young man had called her saying he had broken up with that other girl and he missed her. It’s not an uncommon thing for teenage boys to say what they need to, to get what they want. She was going through a very tough time and when he said he missed her, she made the mistake of jumping at the opportunity to be with someone she had a previous relationship with. She had to move schools and had to leave this boy and other friends behind.
The young man’s girlfriend found out that Amanda and her boyfriend had been together and, in a fit of rage, went after Amanda physically, knocking her down, while peer’s stood by and watched, while encouraging it. No one got angry at the boy who lied to Amanda and cheated on his girlfriend. In my opinion that is not fair and very one sided. How people can blame the person their partner cheats with and not their partner is beside me.
On October 10, 2012 Amanda went into a small room and quietly hung herself at home. Her mom found her and tried to do “CPR” on her but it was unsuccessful. The first responders took over CPR but even they were unable to get Amanda to breathe again. She died at age 15, just one month shy of her 16th birthday.
The light which came from the darkness
Out of tragedy can come great things they say and great changes. Amanda’s tragedy is a very good example. Instead of stopping and doing nothing, Carol Todd decided it was time to talk about bullying and eventually the “sextortion” which became a word used today. Carol lifted herself up and put one foot in front of the other every day to speak out about bullying and the dangers of the internet. For the last three years Carol has worked tirelessly to help those who are victims of bullying, parents who lost children to bullying as she had, to educate parents, youth, and educators about the dangers of the internet. Parents were shocked to learn the places their kids were going were very unsafe. Suddenly parents wanted to know about the dangers their kids were facing on a daily basis.
Parents started to check their child’s profiles, pages and websites. They started to monitor just who their child spoke to online, while in the background respecting their privacy. Parents checked the sites their kids were going to and if they found it unsafe, they started to speak to their kids about why they were not allowed to go there again.
Now let me say that, unfortunately, only some parents decided to do that. Some parents continued to believe their kids had enough problems with peer pressure that they didn’t want to add it by become their Facebook friend. Not every parent decided to start paying attention to what their kids were doing online. That was very sad to me because many other young people later succumbed to the same demise because parents didn’t pay attention to where their kids were going.
In the media today there are so many kids going missing because they met someone in a web cam chat room, who knew all the right words to say, and who later turned out to be a child predator.
Carol Todd is in the media a lot, all around the globe, because she is a parent who wants to do something now that she had no idea about before the loss of her child. Through every good deed Carol does, Amanda lives on and to me that is amazing.
Parent’s are more away these days, which is good, and my hope is that parent’s will treat their child’s online activities like they do offline. For instance, offline parent’s know their child’s friends, parents, address, phone number, etc., but online, they allow children to play with friends they know nothing about. I say that is like your child saying they are going to a different city, to a big park and meet someone they met online. No parent would be okay with that, yet that is what online life is like.
My final thought
This month is World Mental Health Month and today is World Mental Health Day where many places around the globe are lighting up purple in memory of Amanda Todd and all those suffering with mental health issues. Today, which is the third anniversary of Amanda’s death, is also World Mental Health Day. Amanda continues to be a mark on history and change for our children.
As a parent of three adults now, I can say that as teens I would have been terrified of having them go online. 10 years ago no one knew that danger existed for our kids or that people would be looking out for them to harm them. My kids used Facebook but back then they didn’t have a problem with predators because I was their friend. No person was allowed to “friend” my child with me knowing who they were. Granted at times my kids found that a little too parent like but that is who I was and continue to be so it was up to me to protect them online as I did offline. I spoke to my kids daily about life online and off. We had conversations about life from their view not mine. I learned a lot.
Today parent’s can be a part of their child’s life without being a helicopter parent. You can check with your child to see where they go online. Some parents will take the next step and will run checks on their internet devices to see where they went. Although that is a good idea, it’s important to remember your kids are smarter than you are about technology and if there’s a loophole, they will find it. Ban them at home, they will go to any friend’s house or the local library or internet cafe to use the sites you banned. It’s not easy.
An open conversation needs to happen in order for parent’s to stay active in their child’s life. It’s not easy for a parent to talk about how a child may be groomed online but it’s necessary. Parent’s need to research the sites their children go to, to make sure they are safe. Kid’s will tell us that the site is completely safe but if they won’t let you check it, that may be a red flag.
Our world is ever changing and as parent’s is hard to keep up but that’s our job. Talk but more importantly, listen.
Gentle hugs to Carol and Norm Todd on the anniversary of Amanda’s death. Good thoughts for Amanda who is sailing on the ships of heaven. Gone but never forgotten.
If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out. You are worth it and remember that today is only 24 hours and tomorrow is a new day. You may not feel as though you can get through today but you are already a survivor. You survived 100% of the days you didn’t think you would.
Thanks for reading my blog and I hope you have an amazing day. Don’t forget to #LightUpPurple for #AmandaTodd and #AmandaToddLegacy
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