Bonnie remembers 12

2013-09-22T00:00:00Z 2014-07-03T11:48:37Z Bonnie remembers 12Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 22, 2013 12:00 am  • 

I remember 12.

Twelve is picking out three possible wardrobes for school the next day, then wearing something totally different the next morning.

Twelve is shaving your legs for the first time. Twelve is learning how to use an eyelash curler.

Twelve is hoping that cute boy you pass every day in the hall says “Hi” to you.

Twelve is saving a place for your best girlfriend in the cafeteria, and knowing she’ll do the same for you.

Twelve is angst over a pimple on your nose. What 12 is not is hurling yourself off the top of a cement plant because of unrelenting bullying.

But that is exactly what happened to Rebecca Ann Sedwick, who reportedly crawled over a barbed-wire fence and jumped to her death from an abandoned cement silo in Lakeland, Fla. 13 days ago.

According to myriad media accounts, including the Orlando Sentinel, sheriff’s detectives were investigating the role of as many as 15 girls who may have literally cyberbullied the pretty 12-year-old with the long, brown hair to death on their cute little smartphones.

Some of them were former friends.

Rebecca’s mother told authorities her daughter had been targeted for more than a year, prompting her to home-school Rebecca for a time before enrolling her in a different school. She also deactivated her Facebook account.

Still, the insidious messages continued on other media sites, messages like, “Why don’t you go kill yourself?”

Finally, Rebecca did just that — despite counseling and despite her mother’s best efforts to insulate her from the horror that cyberbullying has become.

Rebecca is far from alone. According to The Associated Press, close to a dozen suicides in this country have been linked at least in part to cyberbullying in the last two years, though some believe the number could be twice as high.

“There is a lot of digital drama. Middle-school kids are horrible to each other, especially girls,” Perry Aftab, a New Jersey attorney and expert on cyberbullying told the AP.

Meanwhile, authorities are weighing whether charges can be filed against Rebecca’s tormenters under the state’s new law that covers cyberbullying for victims under 16.

And it is telling that attorneys are starting to notice a new class of defendants. “If you are charged with a cyberbullying crime, you will need a lawyer to defend you,” warns attorneys.com

Ah, yes. How long before attorney ads on television aimed at those charged with cyberbullying become as common as ads offering legal assistance to drunken drivers?

Parents, of course, need to drive home the harm in bullying of any kind. As for schools, those that don’t already educate students on cyberbullying should start doing so immediately. And this needs to be more than some teacher or guidance counselor droning on about how cyberbullying is a bad thing.

Show the kids the newspaper articles and the television clips. Show them the mothers weeping behind their oversized sunglasses. Let them listen to the medical examiner explaining what jumping off the top of a cement plant does to a 12-year-old body.

If they’re old enough to even entertain the idea of sending out such hateful messages, they’re old enough to ponder the consequences.

They buried Rebecca Ann Sedwick on Monday.

Next month, she would have turned 13.

Bonnie Henry’s column runs every other Sunday. Contact her at Bonniehenryaz@gmail.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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