A person’s private life is meant to be just that… private. When a person’s private life is shared online, it can have devastating effects.
Channing Smith, a 16-year-old high school junior in Tennessee, died by suicide Sept. 23 after one of his classmates posted private explicit messages between him and another boy. Smith had allegedly gotten into an argument with a classmate who was close to the boy Smith had the private messages with.
His family is calling for an investigation into the cyber bullying. Keylee Duty, another student at the school, said the messages were old and used to humiliate Smith and that he had faced bullying from classmates before the social media attack.
After the story had become national news, social media users started to post supportive messages for Smith and his family using the hashtag
#JusticeForChanning. Celebrities such as Billy Ray Cyrus have called for attention to the matter.
“My heart breaks for Channing, his family, his friends and the community,” Cyrus tweeted Friday. “This is the saddest story. … Enough is enough.”
Some students organized the strike following the teen’s death because they felt the school was not handling the situation correctly. Students held up signs and wore spray painted shirts declaring “Justice for Channing,” but the principal reprimanded them.
These occurrences are not uncommon and need to be taken more seriously. With the rise of social media and being connected to more people than ever, there comes more responsibility that not everyone is ready to handle. Cyber bullying has major effects that bleed into people’s reality.
The administration’s reaction to the situation solidifies the fact that the students learned this behavior from their authority figures. If the principal or the police do not step up and take the situation seriously, the students will never learn that their actions are sickening.
Users often feel protected behind a username where they can post what they like without facing backlash or thinking about how it will affect the people on the receiving end.
Cyber bullying is not restricted to a specific location which makes it difficult to escape. Everyone who uses social media or has influence over those who do, like the principal, need to do their parts in teaching young adults what is correct behavior on social media. All students learn about bullying in school, and those lessons need to be carried over into the online world.
There are certain conversations people have in private for their own reasons and it should be the people in the conversation’s decision to release the exchanges to the public. Society as a whole needs to band together in combatting these vicious attacks on social media.