Northern Ireland

Cyber bullying: Bereaved mum appeals to children to 'stay safe online'

Amanda Todd
Image caption Before Amanda Todd died in 2012, she uploaded a video describing the bullying she had suffered

The Canadian mother of a 15-year-old who killed herself after prolonged cyber bullying has appealed to Northern Ireland teenagers to stay safe online.

Carol Todd was speaking at an event in Newry, County Armagh, aimed at informing parents and children about the dangers of the internet.

Her daughter, Amanda, took her own life at her home in British Columbia.

Before her death in 2012, the teenager made a YouTube video describing the bullying she had suffered.

The experience led to her abusing drugs and alcohol. Eventually she began to self-harm.

Carol said that Amanda began posting music videos online when she was 12 years old.

"She was a good singer, and so people started liking her videos and saying what a great voice she had," she told the BBC.

"Then, she started having a conversation with a teenage boy. This grew into what I suppose you would call an internet crush.

"Eventually, this boy convinced her to lift her top. And she did.

"Unknown to her at the time, this person took a picture at the other end and began to threaten her - if she didn't do what he wanted, he would post the picture to her Facebook page."

Image copyright AP
Image caption Tributes from across the world were paid to Amanda Todd after she died in 2012

The stranger knew everything about Amanda - her address, school, friends, and the names of her family members.

Eventually, he posted her semi-naked photo online.

Amanda was too embarrassed and afraid to tell her mother about the turmoil she was experiencing.

"In 2010, police arrived at my door," said Carol.

"I hadn't realised what was happening or that the photo had been published," she said. She said her daughter was being bullied "online and offline".

To make matters worse, Carol learned that the other person was not a 16-year-old boy, but a 35-year-old man living in the Netherlands.

In the hope of ending the bullying and harassment, Carol moved her daughter to other Canadian schools, but her efforts to protect her daughter were fruitless.

"The internet travels everywhere," she said. "Before she moved schools, the children at the next school would know already about what happened."

Before she died, Amanda uploaded a video to YouTube describing years of bullying that, she said, drove her to drugs and alcohol.

'Not isolated case'

In the nine-minute video she told her story with a set of handwritten notes.

The recording, described as "haunting", showed the former cheerleader going into detail about what happened to her.

Appealing to Northern Ireland parents to be aware of the dangers online, her mother said: "What I've learned in the last three and a half years is that what happened to my daughter is not an isolated case.

"If kids are going through these kind of things, they need to get support from friends, families, teachers and the police.

"We need to have the conversations with kids, to empower them."

A number of investigations took place following Amanda's death.

Chair of Newry, Mourne and Down Policing and Community Safety Partnership Mickey Larkin explained the purpose of the two-day event in Northern Ireland.

"Digital communication plays a large part in all of our lives and none more so than in the lives of young people," he said.

"New technology can be daunting and we are all guilty of ignoring things that we do not understand.

"However, we think it is vital for the safety of our young people and also parents and educators to make ourselves familiar with the risks and opportunities that the online world brings."

More on this story