Cyberbullying Victim in Ireland: Lara Burns' Story
Lara Burns from Ireland
Ciara Puglsey's Father Urges Politicians to Take Action
In Kilcock in Co. Kildare in the UK, 12-year-old Lara Burns was found dead from an apparent suicide November 2012. The police are investigating cyberbullying as the cause of the girls suicide.
“The family is struggling to come to terms with the devastating tragedy" stated a friend of the family.
Local priest Fr PJ Byrne said: “The community is in shock and are trying to come to terms with such deeply sad and emotional events.”
Lara was Lara had issue with self-harm behavior leading up to the tragedy. The young girl was receiving help from "Peita House" for self harm and suicide prevention.
“This is a hugely upsetting and distressing time for Lara’s family and they are very grateful to all her friends and to the Pieta House group for all their support,” he said.
“There are issues far more complex than may have initially been made out and Lara’s family just need time to grieve and come to terms with their loss now.”
Although there were claims of cyberbullying being the cause of the suicide, no official complaints were immediately filed with the Irish law enforcement. The Irish police are investigating the claims of cyberbullying and her parents really don't know why their daughter took her own life.
A tribute/memorial Facebook page was set up in memory of the young pre-teen.
The local school where Lara had only been for three months, has implemented a critical incident management program in order to help their students cope with the death of their classmate.
Lara was a huge fan of the band, Black Veil Brides. The band played tribute to the girl on the social networking site, Twitter. Fans of the band had let the band know of the girl's death.
Lara Burns was the third death in recent months from cyberbullying in Ireland. In September the victim was Ciara Pugley and in October the victim was Erin Gallaghar.
After Lara burns death, Ciara Pugley's father pleaded with Irish policymakers and politicians to take "urgent action".
“It is devastating to learn that another young girl has taken her own life,” he said.
"My heart goes out to the Burns family because I know what they are going through."
Cops fear that "trolls" contributed to Lara's death. The Justice Minister is backing the new Irish Delete Cyberbullying Campaign. The Office of Internet Safety is his jurisdiction and has informed parents that his office has an internet safety guide available for them.
“It is also very important to make it known that cyber bullying could result in very serious criminal charges being brought against those involved.”
The First Two Victims
Ciara Pugsley and Erin Gallager
There were two girls that took their own lives as well previous to Lara but eerily close together and all linked to being bullied on Ask.fm.
Ciara Puglsey was the first victim and committed suicide in September 2012 Ciara was only 15-years-old and from Dromahair, Co Leitrim, Ireland. She killed herself after being slammed with hate messages on Ask.fm.
In October, Erin Gallagher, a 13-year-old teenager in Ballybofey, Co Donegal Ireland, also took her own life after telling her online bullies not 24 hours before that she was going to kill herself if they didn't leave her alone. Irish police investigated the girl's death. Erin was also using the popular website Ask.fm. The day before she died, she responded to a comment that insinuates that Erin had been the victim or would be one of a physical attack where she would/did get her hair pulled. She responded with,
"Do u think ur funny bulling me over ask.fm yeah u prob think it was funny when a f**in put a rope round my neck cause of yous, yous are that sad!
In response to the tragedy when Mark Terebin was approached for comment, here was his very un-intelligent and arrogant answer,
"We do understand the gravity of the situation and I sympathise with Ciara Pugsley's family.
"Of course there is a problem with cyber bullying in social media.
"But, as far as we can see, we only have this situation in Ireland and the UK most of all, trust me.
"There are no complaints regarding cyber bullying from parents, children or other sources in other countries.
"It seems like children are more cruel in these countries (Ireland and the UK)."
Pieta House is a non-profit organization located in Dublin Ireland. It provides specialized treatment for suicidal prevention. They do not charge for their services. They are able to provide free services due to the 80% of funding comiing from donations and fund-raising events.
The organization was founded in 2006 and was the first one in Ireland to provide these kind of specialized services. It encourages collaboration efforts with doctors and hospitals. It has already served approximately 4,000 people and has opened up an outreach center in Limerick, Ireland and Balleyfermont. It has grown to 40 professionals and administrative staff since opening its doors.
Anyone can make a referral for someone to be seen at Pieta House, so you don't need a doctor's referral nor do you need to already have a psychiatrist that is linked to the organization. You can refer yourself if so needed. The waiting list isn't very long, the organization rarely has someone wait for more than one week to be seen. They always have two emergency slots available.
Treatment at Pieta House is entirely at the pace of the patient and do not prescribe medication but they will work with your family and doctor if its needed or recommended. All sessions are on a one-to-one basis. It is also preferred and recommended that family be assigned a support therapist and be educated on what is going on with the individual in therapy.
Pieta House Lucan, County Dublin,
Where we are:
Pieta House, Lucan Road, Lucan, Co. Dublin.
(01) 601 0000
Opening hours in Pieta House Lucan
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 9am-8pm
Saturday and Sunday* 10am-2pm
Pieta House Locations
Call us: (01) 601 0000 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Opening hours in Pieta House Lucan Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 9am-8pm Friday 9am-5pm Saturd
Call us: (01) 864 8899 Email: email@example.com Opening hours in Pieta Finglas Tuesday - 10am to 3pm Thursday - 5.00pm to 9.00pm
Call us: 01 6200020 Mobile: 0876903236 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Opening hours in Pieta Ballyfermot Open: 10-5pm Monday - Friday
Call us: + 353 (061) 484444 + 353 (061) 484646 Email: email@example.com Opening hours in Pieta Mid-West 9am-5pm Monday - Friday
Founders of Ask.fm
Dislike Ask.fm: Don't Add App to Your Facebook
Ask.fm and Bullying
School Campaigns Against Ask.fm
What Does Ask.fm Say Aboug Cyberbulling on their site?
The social networking site that is linked to the cyberbullying that caused three teenage girls to take their own life in Ireland, during the last three months, is Ask.fm The co-founder of the website was contacted and denied.that social networking cyberbullying is on the rise. He was asked about the girls that committed suicide and he stated that his website is not the issue. He further commented,
"Mass media is knocking on wrong door. It is necessary to go deeper and to find a root of a problem. Its not about the site, the problem is about education, about moral values that were devalued [sic] lately."
The owner of Ask.fm was also contacted and asked to describe the website. He stated,
“just a tool which helps people to communicate with each other, same as any other social network, same as phone, same as piece of paper and pen”.
The issue of how much responsibility the social networking sites have in what goes on on these pages is an issue that many are dealing with. Facebook has the United States grasping at the right to "free speech" and if that consitutes "hate speech" or what "trolls" have been doing on dead girls websites and the awful images and comments that are taking place. The website Facebook, claims to have no tolerance for cyberbullying but yet has refused to take down imagews or shut down pages or profiles that clearly are doing just that. So what does Ireland's social site Ask.fm think when we talk of the issue of responsibility? The owner made a clear statement to what he thinks;
Don’t blame a tool, but try to make changes… start with yourself… be more polite, more kind, more tolerant of others… cultivate these values in families, in schools.Suicide is not something to encourage via mass media. The more you promote suicide, the more it happen.”
But what does he mean when he says "promote suicide"? Is he talking about the bullies that encourage and taunt another peer into killing themselves? Or is he talking about the media reporting the deaths? Or the advocates pushing for stricter guidelines and laws? Who is "promoting suicide"?
"Do you think mass media cares? They want scandals, they want sensations and finally they want money. Sorry, but we do not want to participate in it. What happened is a true tragedy and we give our deepest condolences to the victim’s family and relatives."
The five founders of Ask.fm are:
None of the founders of the website will take any responsibility for the websites being a factor in the child's death. They actually have adamantly refused to have any responsibility. The co-founder Klavs Sinka gave his own statement in regards to the situation:
“We created Ask.fm as an attractive way for people to communicate with each other. For several years, millions of people all around the world have happily used our product. From the beginning, we have tried to create tools with which to fight and prevent publishing of unwanted content on Ask.fm... However, despite all our efforts, we cannot completely prevent users from having a negative psychological impact on one another.”
I am supposing his goal was to pacify the interested parties.
Sinka instead pushs the heat onto parents suggesting "parents keep a better eye on their children." He also is blaming the increase of suicides on the media publicizing the deaths of these kids. Stating its like the "Werther Syndrom" (after a publication a spat of suicides happened.) I find this a bit shameful on their part because these kids have been proven over investigations to have had serious bullying affecting their lives and most had previously mental health issues. This isn't a "glorified" action where they want to go down in their "fifteen minutes of fame" for goodness sake.
Anyway, the actions of the founders that run this website haven't had any action that portrays any "good intentions" as they have left two of the three victims of the last three months profiles active. The anonymous forum blatantly encourages bullying as one of the video's I included will depict.
Mark Terebin released a statement to the Irish television media that,
“There are no complaints regarding cyber-bulling from parents, children, or other sources in other countries,”
Apparently he doesn't look online at all because his online site has received a multitude of complaints across Europe and North America. Teenagers in Ireland have been requesting for the website to be taken down following the death of the three girls or users to delete their profiles out of respect for the victims.
In early November, prior to Lara Burn's death, the Minister had already declared that they were going to demand a safety probe into the Lavatia owned Ask.fm website. The Minister had already met with Facebook and had this to say:
“Obviously I’m very worried because if you have a site that doesn’t have the kind of safeguards, for example, that Facebook has, and doesn’t block and where you don’t have a name policy, I’m obviously very concerned about it.”
Expanding Company While Teens Are Dying
Girl Bullied in Ireland on Ask.fm Reports It to the Police
Reality Check: Terebin You Are a Bully Too
Co-founder of Ask.fm; Mark Terebin
Schools in Ireland Campaign to Ban Ask.fm
What is Ask.fm?
I have a response to the statement from the co-founder and founder in regards to the media, YES the population as a majority DOES care. We need to be made aware of each tragic case, know the details, get to know what personal experiences each family is going through and hear how they could have prevented it, what they could have done different. Don't you think that there are many parents out there watching their teenager going through the same experience and not knowing what to do to help? Don't you think that ;by being made aware of these stories and deaths that parents will be able to learn how to better monitor and protect their children? Are you aware Mr. Ask.fm founder, that many laws and policies in the United States have actually come OUT of these tragedies and that the public has started awareness groups that aim to help the actual bullied individuals? I have never been to Ireland, and I have always had that country on my top five list to travel too, so I have nothing against Ireland...BUT I don't know about Ireland however here in the U.S, we even learn from YOUR tragedies. We have bonded together in all different places in our nation to fix what is going on today with cyberspace. Mr. Ask.fm founder, you are mistaken when you think or state that cyberbullying isn't on the rise because of social networking cites. It definitely is because bullying statistics show this fact. Bullying is drastically rising at a rate increasing as we speak and so much higher than fifteen years ago when I was a young teenager. One thing I will state about Facebook and Myspace, Facebook has spoken to the media, has responded and deleted some content reported. Myspace even went to court and tried to find Megan Meirs neighbor (who created a fake profile to bully the girl and was a grown adult) guilty of some crime just so that she wouldn't get away with what she did. Unfortunately it was overturned but Myspace cooperated and they tried. Your website should be shut down just for failure to help spread the facts and not try to save the integrity of your site.
I decided to look into the social networking site that was the venue for the girls bullies.
ASK.fm is an ask and answer website. It is extremely easy to sign up and when you activate an account you are immediately give five questions to answer. There is basic information and a bio to fill out and you can upload your picture.
When you click on the questions to answer, they give you two options. You can answer the question by typing an answer or you can leave a video answer.
My website profile name is: CuriousGeorge1979 feel free to visit it and ask questions as I intend to eventually have it all about bullying.
The terms state you must be 13-years-old to be a user (well Lara was 12).
You are responsible for the data you submit and the content of your profile, you must provide a real name and valid email address upon signup, you are also responsible for any and all activity that happens on your account and under your password, if you suspect unauthorized use than you are too immediately report it to the ask.fm staff and agree to immediately change your password, you consent to the knowledge that you may encounter inappropriate,obscene, vulgar and the like in material, you acknowledge that ask.fm allows anonymous posts and DOES NOT MONITOR THEM, you are agreeing to use the website AT YOUR OWN RISK and that the website is NOT LIABLE TO YOU,
According to the terms of the site you are NOT ALLOWED TO: send pornography, offensive/harassing/libelous/hate speech/racist/illegal content, you can't misrepresent yourself, you can't transmit directions or instructions for illegal activity, no junk mail or spamming, can't harvest a user's information without their knowledge, can't transmit harassing material, you can't interfere with another's enjoyment of using the site.
In the privacy options it does give you an option to allow or disallow anonymous questions. You can click an option not to allow your answers to appear on "stream" and you also have an option to blacklist users.
I could not find a page for Lara Burns, however I did for a friend of hers who had been asked for her information for her page and she wouldn't give it out because she didn't know the person so I do see that the kids were taught what not to do online. The website has the safeguards and terms in place yet they refused to do anything about it.
To give the website some credit, they do have a guide to parents that explains the ins and outs of the website and the link is available under the logo to the left.
I looked at the guide and it gives further information that isn't available when you are using the site, or isn't very visible. It turns out that if you link your accounts, like with your facebook, everything on the stream is available on your facebook feed. So, if there is obscene and vulgar activity on the stream, that is visible on the kids facebook wall as well.
You can also be linked to ask.fm through your Facebook by using the ask.fm app that is available. It the teenager uses the app they have an option to click if the site is allowed to "post on their behalf", so the content isn't necessarily even known to the user of what is being automatically posted on the Facebook feed. In my view, its handy in the sense that parents who are smart and are friends on their child's facebook and they monitor the activity, than they will always know what is going on with the child's other sites.
Ask.fm is in a lesser degree, also linked to Twitter. The user can only do this by signing in by using the "sign in with Twitter" option. Once linked to twitter the Ask.fm activity is viewable by anyone that searches ask.fm.
There doesn't seem to be any formal form of reporting function on this website, not like what we can see Facebook has done. However, if the app is linked to Facebook, a user can report the app Ask.fm to facebook. It seems that the only "reporting" function would be the block option.
The founders actually ripped off the idea from Formspring and claim to have made their site "better". If you can call being able to anonymously harass someone better. The website boasts over 21 million users. They are building a new office in 'Riga' and looking for new employees with an aim to reaching out to the international audience. The site is available in 31 different languages as well. Nearly HALF of the users are UNDER THE AGE OF EIGHTEEN AND ONLY 31 PERCENT ARE BETWEEN 18-25. (Guess my new profile is going to stand out...maybe I will be bullied so I can see what goes on there.)
Ireland's Cyberbullying Is on Rise
The claim from the co-founder that cyberbullying isn't on the rise nor linked to their website is not accurate. First the video above that was aired on BBC news links the ask.fm site to high rates of bullying and how the site is working to enable the bullying. Also, there was a recent study done (NUI Maynooth Study) and found that 17% of teenagers in Ireland are bullied and 1 in 10 admitted that they were a bully themselves. 1/4 of the victims did not confide in anyone that they were being bullied or sought help in dealing with the situation.
This study also found that teenagers between the ages of 12 and 18 who were cyberbullied had the bullying last on average, 2-3 weeks at a time. However, it has been noted that it can go on for several years. 30% of younger teenagers were more likely to be bullied than 10% of the older teenagers, the study found.
Not only did they find that 17% were victims of cyberbullying but 21% of Irish teens were victims of regular school bullying.
The numbers could even be higher.
The study was published after the three teen suicides in Ireland the past three months, the last being Lara Burns. The study is published in the Irish Journal of Education.
The four categories of cyberbullying that were studied were:
picture or video clips