Bullied Teen's Suicide Makes Moms Want to Monitor Facebook

facebookWhen a child commits suicide after years of bullying, it's hard not to want to crawl back into bed, pull the covers over your head, and refuse to come out. That's how I want to look at the sad story of Amanda Cummings, the 15-year-old girl from Staten Island, New York, who threw herself in front of a bus two days after Christmas. But I can't. Because buried in among the heart wrenching details of Cummings' last weeks and days on earth could be one of the secrets to stemming this tide of young deaths.

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The key? Facebook of all places.

It's the place where -- an hour before sustaining injuries that would claim her life days later -- family members say Cummings first mentioned her intention to die about an hour before she purposely stepped in front of the moving vehicle. The post on December 27 naturally sent her mom into a frenzy, trying to find her daughter. Sadly, tragically, she saw it too late. Many of the frantic texts to Amanda's cellphone and comments on her wall, begging her to answer them, were time-stamped after the tragic accident.

Sooooo ... are you pulling up your kid's Facebook wall now? In this era of helicopter parents who want to control every minute detail of their kids lives, I confess I've been wary of telling parents to read their kids' social media in depth. If you're all up in their grills, the temptation to try to micromanage is great.

But Amanda Cummings' tragedy tells me we have to fight that urge for the sake of helping our kids. We have tools to stop these awful, needless tragedies, but we need to learn to use them the right way.

Several times over in recent weeks, Amanda's family says she had posted to Facebook about death, cries for help. And interspersed with her own sad statuses were the hints of her life outside the home, nasty comments from so-called friends that were the tip of the bullying iceberg. It's like her diary was out there, wide open, just waiting for someone to look at it. And so it is with so many of us -- not just kids, but Facebook users overall.

What parents need to do is harness that power. You may never have read your child's diary out of respect, but an open Facebook wall is yours for the reading. Just don't act like an idiot about it. You're trying to help your kid, not remind them why they don't talk to you in the first place, OK?

Instead of looking to catch your kids out in the act of being a stupid teenager, making them even less inclined to trust you and turn to you, use it wisely. Use the Facebook wall as your key into the secret society that is the mind of your teenager. You can gauge how other kids view them and how they're being treated in school by the posts of their "friends" and classmates. You can spot trends in statuses that key you into their mindset.

Who knows. You could find out your teen is A-OK. Or you could catch their cry for help just in time.

Do you monitor your child's Facebook?


Image via Facebook

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