Cyberbullying: Alexis Pilkington's Story
Teen Suicide in Long Island
Student at West Islip Senior High Committed Suicide in Long Island
Alexis Pilkington committed suicide on March, 2010. She was a student at West Islip Senior High School and already had a scholarship to college for soccer at Dowling College on Long Island. Nancy Lenz who is a spokeswoman for the district, commented that Alexis had already earned all of her graduation required credits to graduate.
Two weeks before Alexis killed herself, a father who lost his son to suicide to online bullying had gone to speak to the school district. The school district immediately had class's have a discussion on the topic of cyberbullying. There was a slim chance that Alexis was in attendance when the talks were given.
"She was a star in our building, an athletic star. Extremely popular," Lenz said of Alexis
Initial police investigations didn't release the cause of death.
Facebook Horror-Cyber Bullies Harass Teen Even After Suicide
Alex Pilkington Memorial Foundation
Facebook Bullying Continues After Teen Suicide
Even after 17-year-old Alexis Pilkington committed suicide, the bullying continued on the social networking site, Facebook. The Facebook page that was being targeted with an onslaught of inappropriate comments was one that was meant to be her memorial page.
The teenager's parents don't believe that the messages that were being posted about their daughter is what led to the girl's suicide, but her friends believe different. They told reporters that they were very creepy and what was worse to them was they were posted anonymously. Not only do they find them creepy and insensitive but the messages have left them distraught since she has died. Her parents said that she was in therapy prior to the messages being posted online and even before she signed up for an account on Formspring, where the attacks actually started.
Suffolk County law enforcement received the information about the bullying comments since the death of Alexis and decided to start an investigation into these comments posted, not only after her death, but leading up to it as well. A father of one of Alexis's friends, Michael Stracuzza, told the press that he will be sending the state prosecutor's any and all of the information regarding the posts on Facebook. Not only that, but he and many other parents are pondering taking legal action as well, since this behavior is now affecting all of those left behind to grieve.
"It's the effect the posts have on those who are mourning that poor girl's death," said Stracuzza.
Stracuzza's daughter is 13-year-old Chanelle who was having a hard time dealing with the comments that she had seen on Facebook,
"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."
Not only was the Facebook page the target, but one on Formspring.me was also a host to many disturbing and insensitive messages. The police department was monitoring these websites so that they could act if any of them turned "criminal". When asked to give any further information into the case, the declined to comment.
Growing up, Alexis used to go on family vacations with Donna McBride's family. Alexis and her daughter had been close friends. She stated how she can remember hearing her daughter start screaming when she saw what was being posted on the site. Her daughter was told not to further look at the page and had someone else start documenting the activity to give to authorities.
"Who has the heart to do this to people who are suffering?" she asked. "Who raised these horrible children?"
This is the first time in all the bullycide victim's stories that I have researched to write about, a spokesman of Facebook was contacted and commented on the happenings on the website. Andrew Noyes, the spokesman for Facebook at the time of this situation, stated that Facebook doesn't condone cyberbullying and was becoming considered about the safety of its users.
"We will disable accounts that are found to be intimidating others in any way," he said.
My question is if they meant what he has been quoted to have said in 2010, than why is there the same intimidating, insensitive, disturbing, heartbreaking, raunchy, and vulgar online after-death bullying going on over not only every one of the victims but most recently Amanda Todd. I am a member of the group on Facebook, "Amanda Todd Reporting Team" and I have reported images, comments, pages etc and very few actually are removed and none of the accounts disabled.
Formspring issued its own statement through an unidentified spokesperson as well.
"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."
Alexis's father, Thomas Pilkington, refused to comment when contacted regarding the current bullying after his daughter's death. He works as a police officer for the New York Police Department and has stated that he will cooperate with any and all legal proceedings but doesn't blame any comment online for his daughters suicide.
"It could be one of many things (contributing to her suicide), but it was not the major or even a minor factor in her deciding to do what she did," Pilkington said
The problem today is that a lot of parents, probably the majority of them, don't understand the impact of cyberbullying. One, they haven't experienced this form of bullying as the technology wasn't near what it is now when they were that age. When they were bullied on the school playground or in the halls they could go home and get away from it. You can't do that anymore. When it goes viral, when it travels through text messaging even these kids are reminded of these things, are a victim and target of bullying every day of every week of every month in the year. There is no weekend reprieves or summer vacations away from the awful things kids say to each other. When its online, it doesn't go away. In five years those things may still be sitting in cyberspace for a constant reminder of the things they went through.
Current findings are showing that cyberbullying creates a significant increase in the cases of depression and anxiety and also in the severity than they would experience if the bullying was of the traditional kind. According to Robin M. Kowalski, a social psychologist at Clemson University who has done extensive research on the phenomena,
"A lot of it stems from that anonymity," she said.
Just shy of fifty percent of victims didn't even know who the bully was online. While in 2010, 15 states had created a cyberbullying law, New York was not one of those states. Since Alexis's death, federal legislation was proposed to implement a way to punish those that participated in cyberbullying.
Even though Alexis's father doesn't blame the Facebook postings for his daughters actions, he does want them to stop at the very least.
"If you're going to say something awful, then you should have your name attached to it," he said. "You shouldn't be able to hide."
SOCIAL NETWORKING SITE: FORMSPRING
Formspring is a question and answer style website where the user receives anonymous or user identified questions about themselves or other topics. The user than can choose to answer the question and post their question with answer for all to see. The benefit is that it gives teenagers a platform to express viewpoints and opinions on different subjects and issues in their lives. The downside is, it is also a place that has more negative aspects than positive ones.
Negative Aspects of Using Formspring
Many questions are about sex and sexuality and in a vulgar manner
It fosters open use of profanity and hateful language
This language and obsenity filled statements are used against the page owners
Statements are common encouraging others to kill themselves
They circulate primarily through the middle school and high school grade levels
Consumes a kids life
Personal information is commonly posted for all to see
The biggest story that is connected to Formspring up to March of 2010 was Alexis's. Jeffrey Fahr, who I wrote about in another hub, was also a victim of some Formspring drama. There were accusations that she was being bullied on Formspring and on Facebook. At the time this was a big story, some were asking for information in doing their own research if the website was a cause of the girls death.
BOOKS ON HATE SPEECH
During my research of the teen's story, I became aware of a website that is called "Encyclopedia Dramatica." After Alexis's death she was bullied on the social sites Facebook and Formspring, but also there are also websites that host discussions and blogs about the teens death as well as others. I decided to provide the information and what kind of things that are being said because it needs to be something, as a society, we figure out what extent is too far. What to do about sites that decide to use "free speech" to hurt others whether or not the person is dead.
Free speech is a huge issue and its what is stopping a lot of horrible things from being deleted and taken off of Facebook by their staff. Its become an excuse and a justification for the darker side of humanity to prey on others. Words are a form of violence and if free speech impedes on a person's right to pursue happiness, isn't that when free speech goes to far?
Encyclopedia Dramatica is a website that promotes creating drama. Drama is a dangerous part of social life and its everywhere. We love watching drama on television, kids swim in drama during their teenage years, and adults today compared to thirty years ago are significantly more involved in drama than their parents were. Some of things I have experienced in the Army Wife drama in real life had my dad's head spinning. He didn't believe that things like that could happen. Well it does and sites like this condone it and promote it.
In this site there is a page called "Alexis Pilkington Syndrome." The opening line states,
The Alexis Pilkington Syndrome is declared CURED as her so-called friends decided to delete the memorial tribute page!
It is a sad situation that the memorial page of a talented and smart young teenage girl had to be removed because it was being targeted by mean-spirited people that posted unnecessary things. Comments that were purposely intended to hurt those that were grieving the suicide of Alexis. I won't go into or post nearly half of what these people posted on this page, but I want my readers to understand the extent of some of the things being said. This is what "free speech" means to some of your fellow citizens.
Alexis Pilkington Syndrome is was an attention wh*&^ disorder
It also posts some comments that had been left on the memorial page that has since than been deleted. A Facebook user named Sara Simpson posted this on the memorial page.
I blame her family. If they were there for her when she needed them then she wouldn't have killed herself. I guess the neglectful bastards just didn't notice she wanted to DIE. I bet her family are sitting there celebrating her death right now while you all bunch of cry baby fags complain. Lighten up, the b*&^ got what she wanted right?„
—Sarah Simpson, Facebook
Apparently in their very foul news reporting style, they reported as well those that commented in response to the posts that were distasteful. One such post was by Alexis's father,
“ If I have to be the complainant in a criminal proceeding, then I would be. „
—Thomas Pilkington, father
Granted this site isn't specifically targeting Alexis and is reporting factual information, but the way it was done, it is supporting what should be stopped. I believe that if people could see that it isn't funny, cute, not intelligent and actually shows ignorance...than more and more people would stop giving them the attention and they will eventually stop because apparently Facebook who says they don't condone it and are worried about behavior like that, really like the publicity since they keep denying removal of such content.
Book Links on Cyberbullying
- School Climate 2.0: Preventing Cyberbullying and Sexting One Classroom at a Time - Sameer Hinduja, J
Technology isn't the problem; it is the teenager's misuse of the technology available today.
- Facebook is Deception (Volume One) - Chamakhe Maurieni - Google Books
This book is based on 3 years of research spanning between 2008-2011 on the Facebook network, conducted by the Gafi research institute. This research touched approximately 1.1 million Facebook users. The research unraveled previously unknown stories,
ALEXIS PILKINGTON'S PARENTS
- Lexi's Beach Bash
PARENTS DEALING WITH DAUGHTER'S SUICIDE OPENLY
Even though, as every parent, the Pilkington's grieved for the loss of their teenage daughter to suicide. They are doing so openly and aren't hiding from what their daughter chose to do.
"I'm starting to believe her upbeat personality was a mask for something she was hiding," said her father, Tom Pilkington. "The taboo thing is no one wants to say, 'Yeah, it's mental illness.'.
"CLICK TO END CYBERBULLYING"
STOP THE RAGE
This cause reports cyberbullying victims weekly. Their goal isn't to just repeat random facts, but to change something little by little that brings (eventually) the end of cyberbullying. They ask that you take a pledge and also take it upon yourself to become a part of the movement of ending bullying. The organization was founded in 2011 over the dramatic rising rates of suicide due to cyber bullying. Stop the Rage spreads awareness through advocacy campaigns, as well as providing resources and information.
The belief is that awareness will spread and result in legislation that will help end cyber bullying.
It is an organization that actively provides help to current victims of cyberbullying and further advocates for them.
As of November 11th they started a pledge called "Click to end Cyberbullying" and promotes no cyberbullying for kids around the world.