Fort Wayne Psychologist: Facebook Postings Can Invite Electronic Bullying

By Jeff Neumeyer

October 5, 2010 Updated Oct 5, 2010 at 5:54 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, IN (Indiana's NewsCenter) --- Teen suicides and bullying have vaulted into the national dialogue on the heels of four high profile incidences, where students took their own lives within the last month.

The deaths are blamed on bullying or harassment by other students.

Tuesday, family and friends in Fort Wayne said tearful goodbyes to a local 14-year old high school freshman, who last week suddenly ended his own life.

There is no evidence to support bullying or harassment played a role in the Fort Wayne case.

Raquel Foster tells Indiana’s NewsCenter a city police resource officer checked into rumors or reports on Facebook about bullying, but that was ruled out as a cause.

There was no note left, or obvious motive, but just the same, people are looking for answers.

We have chosen not to release the name of the teen or the school he attended to protect privacy.

The Allen County Coroner's office says it's the second local 14-year old to commit suicide in 2010, the other victim being a girl.

In 2009, there were no teen suicides in Allen County.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. for people between the ages of 15 and 24.

According to a CDC youth survey, 8 and a half percent of students in grades 9 through 12 reported a suicide attempt in the past year.

A suicide involving a Rutgers University student last week has gotten the most attention on a national level.

That case was so unusual, because it allegedly happened because Tyler Clementi’s roommate posted video on line of Clementi engaged in sexual activity with another man.

Fort Wayne Psychologist Dr. Stephen Ross says that kind of public humiliation is tough for a young person to process, and can trigger suicide.

Ross has real concerns about kids posting so much private information on “Facebook” these days, claiming that can invite electronic harassment or bullying.

Dr. Stephen Ross/Psychologist: " I'm not such a big fan of how ‘out there’ Facebook is and how kids are using that as a mechanism for a psychological portrait of themselves, because they're giving other kids too much information that they can use against them, that's where psychological bullying can come in."

Dr. Ross strongly suggests that parents closely monitor their child's Facebook page, and if they see postings that would suggest the son or daughter is down or depressed, or that they are being subjected to bullying tactics, then the parent should intervene, before the young person acts out of desperation, and takes his or her own life.

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