Here we go again, the Daily Mail broke a story on Wednesday that blames social networking site Bebo for the tragic death of a teenager. What is amazing to me is that other news sources have picked it up. The Guardian has a less strident treatment, as does The Independent, but the Australian site News.com.au starts with the headline “Bebo blamed for 13-year-old boy’s death“. Drawing conclusions much?
We have been here before, and there seems to be a trend to look at teenage suicides and find any link to social networking sites. Back in February we saw a similar phenomenon with regards to the series of suicides at the Welsh town of Bridgend. As then, the assumption behind most of the pieces is clear: suicide > bullying online > therefore the blame lies with internet. This is lazy journalism at best, and purposeful technophobe scaremongering at worst. There is no way to know what was the role played by online bullying in this instance. Isn’t it more likely that the poor kid suffered old-fashioned bullying as well? There is plenty of evidence that Goth and Emo teenagers suffer from constant verbal and physical abuse. The very same Daily Mail that feels so sorry about the death of this teenager, was warning parents not so long ago that Emo music is a cult, hence helping to stigmatise those who dress differently. Shouldn’t we then blame the Daily Mail’s ‘war on Emo’ as the culprit, instead of attacking social networks?