Alexis Pilkington was a popular student; she was liked among her school peers and had even landed a soccer scholarship to college. All of that, however, did not stop her from becoming a cyberbullying victim.
The Alexis Pilkington story did not stop after she committed suicide. After her tragic death, the cyberbullying continued and harassing comments were posted to her tribute page.
The police investigated the messages, but her parents did not believe that they led to her suicide. Her friends think otherwise and were upset about the creepy messages about her and that most of them were posted anonymously
The father of one of her friends, Michael Stracuzza, said, “It’s the effect the posts have on those who are mourning that poor girl’s death. This is what needs to be addressed. Children want to mourn their friend, and there are posts of photos with nooses around her neck. It’s disgusting and heartless.”
Donna McBride, whose daughter was a friend of Alexis’s, said, “Who has the heart to do this to people who are suffering? Who raised these horrible children?”
A Facebook spokesman said that the company does not condone cyberbullying and that “We will disable accounts that are found to be intimidating others in any way.”
Formspring.me also issued a statement, it said, “Like those closest to Alexis, we believe there are other underlying issues at work when someone decides to take their own life,” the statement said. “We will work with authorities through proper legal channels to help prosecute any criminal acts involving the misuse of our system.”
Nancy Lenz, a spokeswoman for the West Islip School District, spoke about Alexis. She said, “She (Alexis) was a star in our building, an athletic star. Extremely popular,” She also spoke about how Alexis had done everything required to graduate and that she had a soccer scholarship to Dowling College where Alexis had planned to start in the fall.
About two weeks before her death a father went to speak to the school district about examples of cyberbullying that was related to his son. This father had a son who committed suicide because of cyberbullying incidents. The district then had classes discuss cyberbullying and its consequences. It is likely that Alexis was in one of those classes during those discussions.
The rise in recent cyberbullying cases is startling. More than 1 in 3 adolescents and teens have experienced cyber threats online. About half of teens have been the victims of cyberbullying and only 1 in 10 tell their parents about it.
Psychologists believe that cyberbullying is worse than face to face bullying. This is because of the anonymity that the attackers have and that gives the victim the feeling that they are universally disliked instead of just being targeted by a few people.
The Alexis Pilkington Memorial Foundation was created to help “educators, mental health professionals and the community.” According to their website, their goal is to “promote suicide awareness and prevention for adolescents and adults.”
They also “hope to assist those families and friends suffering from the devastating aftermath of the suicide of a loved one.” The money that the foundation raises gives scholarships to those that are deserving and supports various suicide awareness programs.
Alexis’ story is just many real life bullying stories to surface lately. She was a fun girl who enjoyed sports and being a typical teenager. Her tragic death brought to light not only the cyberbullying but that Alexis had also been suffering from depression. She was beginning to get treatment for her depression, but being cyberbullied on top of that was just more than she could handle and she felt that death was her only way out.
Cyberbullying examples seem to be everywhere lately. They can come in many forms, such as:
- Sending mean messages to a person’s email account or cellphone
- Spreading rumours
- Posting hurtful or threatening messages on social media sites
- Stealing a person’s account information
- Pretending to be someone else online with the intent to hurt another person
- Sexting or sending sexually suggestive pictures of a person
There are many names that can be added along with Alexis’. Ryan Halligan committed suicide after an embarrassing personal story made the round on AOL instant messenger. Megan Meier killed herself after her neighbour posed as a boy on MySpace, pretended to like Megan, and then subsequently turned on her. Jessica Logan committed suicide after a nude photo she sent to her boyfriend was spread around through Facebook, MySpace, and text messages.
Hope Witsell also killed herself after sending a picture of her breasts to her boyfriend and those pictures were shared, then the “Hope Hater Page” was started on MySpace to continue the cyberbullying. Tyler Clementi committed suicide after revealing that he was gay and his roommate used a webcam to stream Clementi kissing another man. The stream went viral on his roommate’s Twitter feed.
These stories along with Alexis’ are just a few examples of what occurs around the world on a daily basis. With Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Formspring, Snapchat, and many more sites coming online it is extremely easy for teenagers and young adults to not only participate in cyberbullying but also become victims themselves.
Parents, educators, and school officials need to become aware of the signs that a child is being cyberbullied. They need to step up and take a more proactive approach, not only to stop it but to help those who have been victimized. The victim is not going to stand up and admit that they are a victim. They are children and they think that now on understands or can help them.
They will then resort to harming themselves through self-mutilation or suicide. Parents can help by monitoring their children’s online activities and by talking openly with them. They can also friend or follow their kid’s friends in order to monitor and ask for their passwords to their online accounts. And encourage kids to tell a trusted adult if they believe that they are the targets of cyberbullying.