Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A cyber tragedy

A young boy’s suicide abetted by online trickery


Tysen Benz killed himself at the age of 11, Michigan authoritie­s say, in the belief that a certain 13-year-old girl, reportedly his girlfriend, had killed herself.

She hadn’t. And according to Tysen’s mother, even when he said he would end his life too, neither the girl nor anyone else came clean about the hoax. Now the girl is facing charges.

The tale is horrifying. The girl, reports say, had been playing a prank — typing on social media, text-messaging, or both, that she had killed herself. Tysen’s mother said the girl used a friend’s account to hide the fact that she was still alive, typing about her own death.

Although claiming to have killed oneself is an odd kind of bullying, not revealing the hoax when Tysen was planning to kill himself over it suggests the contempt typical of bullies. They make others miserable, and they do not care when their victims cease to value their own lives.

Educators must educate on this issue: Students must understand that cyberabuse can have serious consequenc­es.

When decent human beings, rather than bullies, see that their friends are considerin­g suicide, they want to help. They offer resources. They show they care. If this boy’s girlfriend saw his message and didn’t respond, that’s shocking: How could she not care whether he died?

Suicide attempts are hard to return from. They are often repeated. And they are often characteri­zed as cries for help. A fake suicide might be such a cry.

Young people should be taught to take the danger of suicide seriously. Not only “society,” but students on social media, must learn compassion for those on the brink.

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