Guarding hearts not computers

On October 10th 2017 Amanda Todd, a 15 year old Canadian girl, was found dead in her home. Her suicide was attributed to cyber bullying at the hands of ‘friends’ and strangers alike.

It started when a photo of her topless (which she uploaded at the request of strangers she was connecting with via video chat) was circulated on the internet. What followed was a series of tragic events – she struggled with anxiety and depression, turned to alcohol and drugs, her family moved towns, she changed schools twice, she had sex with a guy-friend, she was physically attacked … On September 7th she posted this video online …

Her story has sparked a lot of discussion about the perils of social networking and the need for greater regulation. Whilst this heartbreaking story is a cautionary tale of the pitfalls of internet use (the need for adequate monitoring, the degree of ignorance our teens tend to have to the permanency and scope of choices made in those ‘now’ moments, the cruelty of teens to one another, the speed with which those things can escalate etc) my heart broke to watch this video for a deeper reason.

I watched this and wept for a girl who was completely at the mercy of others to determine her own sense of self and to know her value and worth. Every step of this story is reflective of her search for significance in the responses and acceptance of others who are seeking exactly the same thing in their own (dysfunctional and depraved) way. I see a girl who would no doubt have felt she had no other options than the ones she chose.

I wonder if this couldn’t be a great resource to parents and leaders looking to engage and invest into youth? Perhaps this is a video you could watch with your teen and discuss it together? It would be a great opportunity to help them see the various “t-intersections” Amanda faced and the choices she made at each – workshopping some alternatives or ways she might have avoided some of the situations she found herself in.

Our young people are inundated with opportunities, interactions and decisions that are beyond their maturity and capacity to handle alone. Let’s be intentional about having preventative/pre-emptive conversations with our young people. Firstly, to equip them to navigate life in positive and healthy ways. But secondly, (and of infinite importance) to develop relationships of trust, safety and openness that will stand your young person in great stead to look to you (or other significant adults in their world) when they find themselves in circumstances beyond their ability to navigate alone.

Just a thought.