JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – The arrests this week in a bullying case out of Florida highlights the dangers for children online.
Investigators say Rebecca Sedwick, 12, killed herself after being picked on relentlessly at school and online. Investigators in Colorado are warning parents about a specific website on which the cyberbullying happened to Sedwick.
“It could happen right here, to any one of our kids,” Jefferson County District Attorney Investigator Mike Harris said.
Two girls, ages 12 and 14, were arrested this week, charged with aggravated stalking. Police say they constantly attacked Sedwick over social media.
“Bullying in and of itself is not a crime,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd of Florida said. “But bullying makes up the predicate acts for stalking or aggravated stalking.”
Among many of the sites used to terrorize Sedwick like Facebook and Instagram, another one called Ask.fm was also in the mix. In recent weeks it’s caught the attention of law enforcement in Colorado’s Jefferson County who have heard complaints from both parents and students.
“That they’re getting threats, that kids are telling kids, ‘Kill yourself, you’re not worth it, you should die, cut yourself,’ ” Harris said.
The site is a type of anonymous message board where users can post comments to a person’s profile. But sometimes the messages go beyond innocent.
“When kids put this information out there, it’s easily done, but then they don’t realize now they can’t take it off and it’s already posted,” Harris said.
In Sedwick’s case the messages were bad enough that she took her own life. Her family hopes her story can save others.
“If a kid comes to you and says, ‘I’m being bullied,’ please look into it diligently. It could save a life,” Sedwick’s mother Tricia Norman said.
The Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office says they’ve had more than 30 inquiries about Ask.fm. They say parents need to be vigilant and watch their children’s activities both online and on cellphones.