I like to keep an eye on breaking news regarding cyberbullying, and so I came across this:
It worries me, like most things do, because it mentions the Daniel Perry and Hannah Smith cases, both of which were nothing to do with cyberbullying. Yet it is astonishing what people continue to believe, and it is damaging the cause of those who are genuinely concerned about the activities of youngsters on the Internet.
When I chose the title of this blog, I really wasn’t sure that it was the best choice. If I had called it ‘The True Story of Amanda Todd’ I would probably have received a gazillion hits and a mass of abuse. But as time goes on I have allowed myself a little pride in it, for truly ‘Truth is Eternal’ but knowledge is changeable, and the subtitle speaks for itself. Unless we understand the whole picture, all the complexities, we can never hope to solve the problems that lie at the core.
People ask why I concentrate on the Amanda Todd story. It’s for two reasons: to write about Aurora Eller, Megan Meier, Hannah Smith, Jessi Slaughter, Daniel Perry and the others would take an age and fill a thousand pages, and the Amanda Todd story manages to cover so many intricacies that it’s worth trying to explain the whole scenario.
And what a scenario that is. Mental health, drinking, drugs, parenting, promiscuity, fraud, bullying, predators, paedophiles and general bonkersness. If only I were doing a PhD thesis! Each facet of the Amanda Todd story could fill a book, the whole thing could fill a library shelf. It’s what keeps me awake at night. Not the fact that girls flash online – it seems to be a habit. The story hasn’t exactly unleashed hidden horrors about teenage activity, and it’s not particularly opened up new windows to anything that didn’t already exist. Of course, the media are new – Facebook, Snapchat, Omegle and so on – but the practices are ancient. Emperor Tiberius and his catamites? Nabokov’s ‘Lolita’? Jerry Lee Lewis and his wife? Even Thomas Hardy wrote of rampant underage sex in the harvest fields. A teacher friend of mine told me that one of the reasons he couldn’t cope with teaching girls was that some would flash him for a laugh!
Surely we knew that paedophiles existed? Good grief, the Catholic church has been hushing it up for years, as has the BBC. I went to a primary school where the headmaster often ‘disciplined’ his favourites, and at secondary school the grapevine would pre-warn us about the rather-too-familiar PE teacher.
Surely we knew that the average 13 year old boy is essentially a priapic demon looking for and thinking about sex every 10 seconds of his new post-puberty life? It’s just that back in the day your mum’s lingerie catalogue was quite sufficient, and you (or maybe that should just be ‘I’) would be more than pleased to find a discarded copy of Playboy in a local public toilet or park hedge.
Surely we knew that the average teen girl can be driven to madness by turbulent hormones and the dawning of sexual awareness? By the thoughts that they, for some unknown reason, have something that the aforementioned priapic boys are overwhelmingly fascinated by? That they can entertain a chatroom of 150+ just by flashing their tits?
So on an existence level, fundamentals haven’t changed in centuries. It’s just that things have evolved, and not many people have caught up. Mum’s catalogue is now replaced by Pornhub. Behind-the-bike-sheds flashing has now become world-wide chatroom chest-baring. Paedophiles who lurked outside schools (but mostly inside them) now just hang around teen websites. They don’t even need to become priests, TV celebrities or Scout leaders any more.
What makes the Amanda Todd story so (to me) interesting is that it encapsulates the whole issue of modern-day teen activity, and it does it in spades. Had it truly been the case of a one-off flash that went disastrously wrong, then it might have been more important to look at the aftermath of it all. But it wasn’t. Research shows that flashing is now a big ‘meh’ amongst teens – it might have even been so years ago. Amanda herself said it was no big deal.
What was intriguing about the Todd story was the extent to which it went on. Here was a girl whose hobby – for really, that’s what it was – was going online to flash for likes. In my day, this sort of activity was usually a trade – for cigarettes, maybe even a drink – but for Amanda it was purely for attention. There’s something sad about that.
But it doesn’t stop there. Amanda just about managed to tick all the boxes to fulfil the title of ‘Disastrous teen’. Online flashing? Tick. Drugs? Tick. Drink? Tick. Promiscuity? Tick. Doctors/psychiatrists/psychologists don’t need to look at many different test cases to do research – it’s all here in one package.
I have been waffling, so I will bring today’s post to a close.
Have we really learned anything from the Mysterious Case of Amanda Todd? Unfortunately, I don’t think so. Looking at cases over the years – Marjorie Raymond comes to mind – they all had the tagline ‘Never again’. People ran around with the usual calls for more money to be spent, for more precautions, more panic. But it was all forgotten.
What I despise about the Amanda Todd case is that I believe (backed up by close observation) that it has actually done damage. I have already listed the types of damage in this blog – suicide ideation, emotion fatigue, bullying of the bullies and so on, but it goes further than that.
There’s a ton of kids out there who are genuinely in need of help, and most of them suffer in silence. Believe me – the more ostentatious a kid is about their problems, the less likely they are to be in need. But the inane responses to the Amanda Todd case – we must talk about it, we must publicise it, we must run around like headless chickens about it – have destroyed years of hard work put in my sensible people. What evidence do I have of this?
We must talk about it. ALL the experts warn of suicide ideation, of copycat reactions, of saying the wrong things. Yet people insist on talking about it.
We must publicise it. Children complain that talk of cyberbullying has become boring, that they are turned off. Go to many of the forums or chatrooms – as soon as a child tries to ask for help, more often than not they are accused of being ‘an Amanda Todd’ – attention seeking, stupid, not worth listening to.
We must run around like headless chickens. Yep. Make a petition to have me investigated; discover my experience as a Trumpton firefighter; create a vendetta against anyone called Maxson; make criminals of children for the deadly sin of behaving like inexperienced people; publish books like ‘Extreme Mean’ that are obsolete before they even get to the bookstore.
The more time passes, the more valid my subtitle becomes.