Brandy Vela was an 18-year-old student from Texas City, Texas. On November 29, 2016, Brandy shot herself in the chest. What lead to this tragic event?
According to her family members, Brandy was a victim of cyber-bullying. “They would make dating websites of her, and they would put her number and they would put her picture (on the sites), and lie about her age and say she is giving herself up for sex for free, to call her,” said Jacqueline Vela, Brandy’s older sister.
Even after her passing, Brandy is still being harassed. A few days after her funeral, a social media page on Facebook was created in Brandy’s name. People believed Brandy’s family created the page and began leaving their condolences. What was supposed to be a place where family members and friends could share their love and condolences was tainted by disturbing comments.
One individual on the site left a comment about Brandy being a big fat cow, writing ‘you finally did it’ with a picture of a gun. Another post shows Brandy smiling with the words, “my face when you shoot yourself in front of your family.” Another image is a stick figure holding gun with the words, “opps am I dead?”
What is Cyber-bullying?
According to Stopbullying.gov, Cyber-bullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Electronic technology includes devices and equipment such as cell phones, computers, and tablets as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chat, and websites. Examples of cyber-bullying include mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.
NoBullying.com reported 25 % of teenagers report that they have experienced repeated bullying by their cell phone, or on the Internet. 52 % of young people report being cyber bullied. 11 % of adolescents and teens report that embarrassing or damaging photographs have been taken of them without their knowledge or consent. In addition, the following statistics were reported:
- 95 % of teens that witnessed bullying on social media report that others, like them, have ignored the behavior.
- More than half of young people surveyed say that they never confide in their parents when cyber bullying happens to them.
- Only one out of every six parents of adolescents and teens are even aware of the scope and intensity of cyber bullying today.
- More than 80 % of teens regularly use cell phones; a common medium for cyber bullying.
- About half of young people have experienced some form of cyber bullying. Of them, almost 20 % experience cyber bullying regularly.
- The most common types of cyber bullying tactics reported are mean, hurtful comments, as well as the spreading of rumors.
- Cyber bullying affects all races.
- Victims of cyber bullying are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem and to consider suicide.
How Can Cyber-bullying Be Prevented?
Nobullying.com provides these useful tips to stop Cyber-bullying:
- Talk to teens about cyber bullying, explain that it is wrong and can have serious consequences. You may want to have some specific rules with your teens regarding cyber bullying, such as banning sending mean texts or inappropriate behavior online.
- Encourage teens to report incidents of cyber bullying to an adult, but be careful to reassure victims that they will not be punished.
- Reassure the bullying victim that they are not at fault for attacks against them.
- Encourage adolescents and teens to save cyber bullying messages as proof. This is especially important if the incidents are eventually reported to the police, parents or school officials.
- Since much of the cyber bullying attacks happen via cell phones, victims should start by changing their cell phone numbers and email addresses. You can also contact your cell phone provider to block the bully.
- Encourage young people not to send information or photos by text or instant messaging that they wouldn’t want shared publicly.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people with approximately 4,400 deaths every year. The CDC estimates that there are at least 100 suicide attempts for every suicide among young people. More than 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide and nearly 7 percent have attempted it.
Where Can You Get Help?
If you or you know someone who is contemplating suicide due to cyber-bullying, the following organizations can provide you will help and resources:
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (888) 333-2377
- National Domestic Violence Hotline (800) 799-7233, (800)787-3224 (TTY)
- Mental Health America (800) 969-6642
- KidsPeace (800) 257-3223
- National Runaway Safeline (800) 786-2929
- National Victim Center (202) 467-8700
- Trevor Helpline for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Youth (866) 488-7386
Cyber Bullying Statistics, NoBullying.com, https://nobullying.com/cyber-bullying-statistics-2014 (last visited Dec. 26, 2016).
What is Cyberbullying?, Stopbullying.gov, https://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/what-is-it/index.html (last visited Dec. 26, 2016).
Teen who shot herself in front of her parents is still being bullied, CNN, http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/14/health/teen-suicide-cyberbullying-continues-trnd/ (last visited Dec. 26, 2016).
Teen Who Killed Herself In Front of Family Is Still Being Bullied, ABC 7 News, http://abc7chicago.com/news/teen-who-killed-herself-in-front-of-family-is-still-being-bullied/1657955/ (last visited Dec. 26, 2016).