Suicide of Rebecca Sedwick Preventable

Suicide of Rebecca Sedwick Preventable

The suicide of 12 year old Rebecca Sedwick last month sent shock waves around the nation. We continue to be surprised when we let children have unfettered access to technology, which greatly increases narcissism, decreases social skills, self-esteem and empathy; and they turn into bullies who cause the suicide of other children. However, we should not be shocked, or even surprised. We’ve allowed a culture of cyber bullying to proliferate and disavowed any suggestion that technology is partially to blame. Now we are suffering the consequences of our inaction. The suicide of Rebecca Sedwick was totally preventable, and the parents of the cyber bully perpetrators are also to blame for allowing their children to act like uncaged animals, who, authorities report, have no remorse for their crimes. But it’s not just the parents who are to blame; it’s also our society, which has set a tone of the acceptability of children having unchained access to the internet, 24/7 engagement with social media, and a disconnection from their own families.

Engagement with social media causes a lack of self-esteem and at the same time increases narcissistic behavior. This has been proven in numerous studies, and the supporting research piles up almost daily. One example is a study published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One, entitled Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults. In that study, the authors found that Facebook use was linked with a decline in mood, and that the decline grew worse the more someone used Facebook. They explain:

Facebook use influences the two components of subjective well-being: how people feel moment-to-moment and how satisfied they are with their lives. Our results indicate that Facebook use predicts negative shifts on both of these variables over time. The more people used Facebook at one time point, the worse they felt the next time we text-messaged them; the more they used Facebook over two-weeks, the more their life satisfaction levels declined over time.

Suicide of Rebecca Sedwick Preventable
Parents need to start limiting social media usage for their children.

Another example of the growing body of research that supports this idea is a study out of the University of Hawaii, which found that Facebook use damages interpersonal relationships. The authors also found that that the damage grew worse the more someone used Facebook. A third example is a study out of the University of Michigan, which found that Facebook clearly causes an increase in depression. Again, the study found that the more someone used Facebook, the more depressed they became. Using social media also increases narcissism. A recent study found that using both Facebook and Twitter was linked to an increased in narcissistic behavior.

High narcissism, decreased feelings of wellbeing, especially shame, and most importantly, a lack of empathy have been proven to be present among bullies. When it comes to bullying, the most significant among these qualities, arguably, is a lack of empathy for others. A recent widespread study found that college students today are a whopping 40% less empathetic than their counterparts 30 years ago and that empathy has decreased most sharply since 2010. The study researchers said they believe that social media is a factor, along with violent video games, saying:

The increase in exposure to media during this time period could be one factor. Compared to 30 years ago, the average American now is exposed to three times as much nonwork-related information. In terms of media content, this generation of college students grew up with video games, and a growing body of research, including work done by my colleagues at Michigan, is establishing that exposure to violent media numbs people to the pain of others. The ease of having ‘friends’ online might make people more likely to just tune out when they don’t feel like responding to others’ problems, a behavior that could carry over offline. College students today may be so busy worrying about themselves and their own issues that they don’t have time to spend empathizing with others, or at least perceive such time to be limited.

The studies linking social and other media exposure to a lack of empathy, an increase in narcissism, a reduced feeling of well-being and an increase in depression could fill an entire book, and yet, many people not only choose to not accept these findings, but the mere mention of the study results incites fury in many. Any hint that technology, gadget or social media usage should be limited invites a host of abusive language, ad hominem attacks and, yes, bullying from people who cannot, or will not, consider placing boundaries on the time they spend engaging in such media.

There are some parents, too, who bristle at the idea of limiting their children’s exposure to this media because having to do so would mean dealing with the temper tantrums of their technology-addicted children. In the case of Rebecca Sedwick and her tragic suicide, it seems apparent that her bullies had little to no parental guidance and certainly no limitation on or even basic monitoring of their social media usage. In fact, one of the little demon brats wrote on Facebook “I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself” as if boasting about an accomplishment rather than indicating any shame at a murderous behavior. Obviously, no parent was paying attention here at all.

Suicide of Rebecca Sedwick Preventable
We have lost this young lady to suicide because of cyber bullies.

Along with a decrease in well-being and an increase in depression, suicide rates overall have seen an enormous upswing in the last ten years. The New York Times reports that experts have linked the rise in suicides to a drastic increase in the incidence of cyber bullying.

Suicide of Rebecca Sedwick Preventable
Chart of rising suicide rates over the last ten years.

Schools can implement as many anti-bullying programs as they want, but as long as we let children have totally unrestricted access to the internet and social media, nothing will change, because the effects of social media and the addictive, numbing effect of our gadgets supersede real-life interactions.

Psychologist Sherry Turkle says today’s kids are unable to pay attention to real-life conversations, and she says texting and other forms of social media are causal in this problem. She says the short, limited social media interactions are ruining human connections. “The complexity and messiness of human communication gets shortchanged” when people are communicating via text or online she says. “Those things are what lead to better relationships.” She seems to indicate that having a screen in between two people degrades the quality of the communication, saying “A full-scale apology means I know I’ve hurt you, I get to see that in your eyes. You get to see that I’m uncomfortable, and with that, the compassion response kicks in. There are many steps and they’re all bypassed when we text.” Of course, this also applies to any interaction that removes eye and voice contact entirely. Turkle also says that today’s kids are scared of basic human conversation. “I talk to kids and they describe their fear of conversation,” she says. “An 18-year-old I interviewed recently said, ‘Someday, but certainly not now, I want to learn to have a conversation.’”

We’ve built a generation of kids who cannot have a human conversation and some of whom have very little empathy. Because they are unable to connect fully with another human being due to the fact that they always have a screen in between them and the other person, they bully each other, literally, to death.

That is what happened in the case of Rebecca Sedwick. She was bullied into suicide; a suicide that was entirely preventable had the parents of the accused simply placed reasonable limits on social media and technology use and monitored what their children were doing. In other words: parenting.

It’s time to wake up to the realities of what screens are doing to our children. Otherwise, we will have a lot more Rebecca Sedwicks to look forward to.

An Editorial By: Rebecca Savastio


Elon University

New York Times


University of Missouri

Peer-Reviewed Journal Plos

Guardian Express

Daily Mail UK


11 Responses to "Suicide of Rebecca Sedwick Preventable"

  1. becca abt   December 12, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    rebecca, the complete work can be downloaded here : ( I wrote you 3 years ago ) I will send the final update today after 6:00 pm ET time. there are almost 1,200 cases of bullycides. pdf file 790 mb.

  2. Suphie   December 12, 2013 at 8:30 am

    Wow. Smith really sucks.

  3. becca abt-Director   November 25, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    Rebecca I send you an email to the newspaper asking for your email, but if you read this first, I want to send you something you will love to see. every word you put in this article makes sense. my email is

  4. JOHN APOCHI   November 1, 2013 at 12:50 am

    Thanks for a useful info. We must check the usage of internet by our teens otherwise a lot of things may go from wrong to worse.

  5. Rebecca Savastio   October 17, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    @smith: Try to think logically for five minutes. How can brand new studies on internet and gadget overuse be “recycled crap?” What you are saying makes no sense. Where are your studies that show cyber bullying is NOT caused by a lack of empathy brought on by overuse of social media? Guess what? There aren’t any, because ALL of the studies support my thesis. Are you a scientist? No, you’re not. Are you a doctor? No, you’re not. Are you psychologist or any type of expert on this issue? No, you’re not. Do you have ANY supporting evidence to back your opinion? No, you do not. Are you a journalist who can do your own research and form your own article that is well-thought out and well researched? No, you’re not. Why don’t you go and find new studies that support your argument and then write your own article citing your peer-reviewed, published sources? Oh, too bad, you can’t do that because those studies don’t exist. The only thing that exists is people like you who do NO research on an issue and then come on and yourself bully the writer in the comments section. The only thing that exists is people who go around blowing a lot of hot air about things which they have done NO research on; and people who don’t think scientifically about a topic, and then come onto the comments to harass the author. How dare you insult me and say I wrote this “at the expense” of the victim? I am trying to raise awareness of a very important issue which is cyber bullying which is proven to be caused by a lack of empathy. Do you stop to think for one second that there is a real person sitting behind the computer screen who cares about an issue, who spent three years researching the topic of technology addiction and 6 hours crafting the article? No, you don’t think about that because you yourself are a cyber bully who spends time trolling around making nasty comments with nothing to back those comments up. Do you see Phillip’s comment here? That is a well-thought out comment; a thoughtful comment which critiqued something in my article in a thoughtful, valid and polite way. Why don’t you try that for a change instead of directly insulting me personally? Or would that be too much of a stretch for you to make a thoughtful and polite comment?

  6. Rebecca Savastio   October 17, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    @smith: Oh wonderful, another person who chooses to ignore science and proven scientific studies, all of the doctors and psychiatrists, and who comes under a story with ten reputable sources and makes obnoxious comments for no reason with NO supporting evidence to back up what you’re saying. I’m sure you know better than all of the experts combined. You are undoubtedly a genius.

    • smith   October 17, 2013 at 10:07 pm

      Oh wonderful, another person who chooses to ignore science and proven scientific studies,

      you did not prove anything. all you came up with is the same recycled crap that that they have been using to demonize everything from comic books to this and try to give yourself a story at a suicide victims expense

      • becca abt-Director   November 25, 2013 at 5:34 pm

        Smith: your words are empty. I’m just trying to contact Rebecca Sevastio because I just read this article and I was surprised that a Presentation about Rebecca Sedwick here says the same thing Sevastio’s article says but in a totally different way, that means is true every word in this article here. I don’t understand how you dare to speak that way to people who work so hard to help others. at least, have some decent way to speak online and don’t become a bully trying to make a point. I’m open to hear your comments because is your right to express what you think, just do not abuse the right of free expression. for the record, I work for Becca. ( she may be dead, but her name will be in every corner pretty soon )



  7. smith   October 17, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    oh wonderful another hack the internet is evil page.

  8. Rebecca Savastio   October 17, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    Hi Philip: Thank you for reading. I will be honest here and share. I debated with myself for about an hour over that phrase. I ended up leaving it in to illustrate the extreme horror I feel at what these children are becoming. It is, in fact, as though they are becoming demons. I left it in to show how their actions beget more anger and remove people’s ability to feel compassion. Their actions are so heinous that it is difficult to look at them as children. I hope we as a society take a hard look at what is happening to all of us. The screen makes it so easy to be harsh. So my leaving it in was purposeful to make a point. Thanks again for your comment.

  9. Philip Rose   October 17, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    Not bad. You’ve kind of hit the nail on the head regarding onlne bullying, but the average parent is hopelessly out of touch. However, although you use the phrase ‘demon brats’, and perhaps that is true, we should still realise that they are just children, and we shouldn’t turn this into some sort of dreadful ‘lock them up and throw away the key’ situation. Society really needs to try to understand why these kids have gone so wrong, and why we see more and more 12-14 year olds acting this way. Love and understanding is what these kids need – not demonization. They need to be spoken to, to comprehend what they have done, not treated like adult felons.


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