Internet bullying has increased the risk of suicide among youth, warns Yitzhak Kadman

Following suicide of 12-year-old boy in Beersheba after apparently being bullied at school, director of National Council for the Child urges education to identify distress in children.

Students at computers (photo credit: Reuters)
Students at computers
(photo credit: Reuters)
The Internet and social networks have greatly increased the risk of child suicide due to bullying, says Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, executive director of the National Council for the Child.
He was reacting in Wednesday to the case of a 12-yearold who committed suicide in Beersheba this week. The boy was found unconscious in his room after having strangled himself. He was taken to the city’s Soroka University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
Police suspect that the child killed himself after having been bullied by peers at school. Earlier this month he posted the following status on his Facebook profile: “Being lonely is not necessarily being alone, it can also happen when you are surrounded by the wrong people.”
According to Kadman, the Internet’s “massive reach” and the fact that it is a vehicle for “anonymous evil” is what increases the impact of bullying on children.
This, he added, is made worse by the “prevailing misconception that both adults and children have, that there are different standards and values in the real world and in the virtual world, and that what is forbidden in the real world is allowed and legitimate online.”
However, he stressed that the boy’s suicide was related to a variety of issues that cannot always be blamed on the Internet.
“We need to invest in education, not necessarily formal education, of children, parents and teachers so they can identify distress, and encourage them to report any suspicion of injury or signs of distress to professionals,” he said. “We should also make clear to children that what is disqualified and negative in the real world is equally wrong in the virtual world.”
Also on Wednesday, Education Minister Shai Piron reacted to the case on his Facebook page.
“I think about [bullying], trying to figure out how it happens that we pick on someone and behave cruelly toward them, with cynicism, mockery and more,” he wrote.
Piron shared his own experience of having been shunned by peers in the eighth grade after he told his teacher that someone had hit him.
“It was three excruciating days when I felt helpless, confused and sad,” he recalled.
He also addressed bullies.
“You are not bad. You just do not realize that it can destroy, injure and leave a mark on someone for life. Nothing, but nothing, grows out of being spiteful; nothing good is built on cynicism, and mocking someone is a very low thing to do,” he told them.
According recent data released by Kadman’s group, there are some 6,000 attempted child or adolescent suicides in Israel each year. Only about 700 are actually reported to authorities.
The data show that in 2012 there was a drastic rise in the number of attempts among young children, with 24 cases involving children aged nine or under.