Talk to your kids.

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/12/sexting-suit/

I’m going to be careful with this one. This is a tragedy; plain and simple.

From the article:

The parents of a teenage girl who committed suicide last year are suing the girl’s ex-boyfriend and several other former high school classmates who circulated a nude photo of her and harassed her about the image.

The suit was filed in Ohio by Cynthia and Albert Logan who say that the students’ “degrading sexual insults” caused their 18-year-old daughter Jessica, their only child, severe emotional distress, which led her to kill herself in July 2008, a month after graduating from high school.

The suit names Ryan Salyers, Sara Jane Ramsey, Courtney Richardson and Emily Stachler, as well as a minor identified only as A.R. for severe infliction of emotional distress. Salyers is further accused of invading Jessica’s privacy.

I won’t say that her parents made mistakes or that they could have prevented this. I will say that I hope my relationship with my daughters is such that they would never see suicide as a solution to anything and would come to me for help long before it got this bad. Kids make mistakes too and they need to know that we will love them and nurture them through the worst of their mistakes.

There are so many things about this story that made me want to add it to my site and express an opinion.

1) Women typically don’t commit suicide; they attempt it (broad generalization, I know). Some doctors say their typical intention is to get the attention they need in order to get help. This girl’s pain was so serious that she left no option for survival. That’s extremely tragic. I hope my daughters never feel so much pain. I hope that if they are in a situation so dire, and before feeling so helpless, they come to me. I hope that I have instilled in them the trust to be open with me and to know that I will love them and help them no matter what.

2) Kids are ruthless in their judgment of one another. They can execute the most painful torture on their peers and it’s something we need to address as a society. Kids and teenagers need to know that every one else feels pretty much the same things as they do and they are not alone. I felt very much like an outsider in school and spent quite a bit of time uncomfortable as a result. It wasn’t until I was in college and took an elective course called “Early Childhood Development” that I began to understand that I really was normal; most of the other kids felt just like I did, they just coped differently. If we made this type of information a requirement in Junior High School Health and PE classes across the country, I think we’d have a much greater understanding of our own emotions much earlier in life and therefore have stronger coping mechanisms.

3) Given what has been published and I’ve read so far, the parents really shouldn’t sue the school. I don’t know what the school could have done to prevent the harassment. Kids don’t stop harassing each other just because a teacher tells them to or because they leave campus. I don’t understand what authority the school could have enforced to make sure the girl was protected.

4) I don’t know what to say about the “sexting”. How do you stop your kids from making mistakes on such a grand scale?  Is there anything the parents could have done after the fact to stop her from spiraling into the depression? These are serious questions that every parent should make sure to educate themselves about as much as possible. I am hopefully instilling in my kids the idea that nothing they do could possibly be so embarrassing that they can’t share it with me if it gets out of their control. I think we were fortunate enough to have had “the talk” with our oldest daughter just in time. I know for a fact that some people would have thought we were too early, and possibly too frank, but given recent events in her life, I know that we addressed it at a proper time. One of her friends was caught looking up pornography on the internet; a link that she got from a friend at school. We did not have the talk too early.

5) All parents make mistakes. ALL parents. The most important thing we can do for our kids is to pray. Pray every day. And love them unconditionally and make sure they know it. My parents have prayed for me every day of my life. They still pray for me and my children, by name, every day. I can’t tell you how I have felt the influence of their prayers over the years and I can’t tell you how important it is to me to know that they still pray for each of us every day. I know that my parents love me; there has never been a day that I didn’t know it. They made mistakes, but they did these two things right.

I hope this family pulls through and that we as a society can learn and make changes to help prevent this sort of thing in the future.

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