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HUDSON, FL –– Pasco County authorities say 16-year-old Jessica Laney hanged herself Sunday night, and some of her friends say cyber-bullying is to blame.

According to one of her friends, Laney attended Fivay High School after being transferred there due to bullying at her previous high school. But they say the bullying that led to Laney killing herself did not come from her new school, but rather from anonymous people online. In particular, members of the website Ask.fm.

For the un-initiated, Ask.fm is a social site where users can invite questions and comments from other members, anonymously. Laney’s page is full of the standard crap you would expect on a cute 16-year-old girl’s page, but also contains some disparaging comments from anonymous users calling her fat and a loser. Some even tell teh girl no one cares about her and instruct Laney to hurry up and kill herself.

Her friends say these negative comments are what led the girl to hang herself Sunday night, although official from the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office says neither Laney’s parents nor Laney’s boyfriend were aware of Laney being bullied. In fact, some of the comments Laney made in response to these anonymous trolls seemed to be coming from someone un-phased by their comments. Pasco County deputies say they will continue to investigate Laney’s death and released the following statement:

“Our thoughts and prayers go to the Jessica Marie Laney family as they deal with their loss. The Pasco Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate the events that led up to her death on December 9, 2012.  The PSO is not aware of any formal complaint to the Pasco School District or PSO about her being bullied. However, we continue to speak with family members, close friends and review various social media postings as we continue our death investigation.”

Jessica Laney

A handful of obligatory Facebook tribute pages have cropped up with some asking for Ask.fm to be shut down, even going as far as creating an online petition. One of Laney’s friends posted: “…last night, my friend Jessica Laney took her life. She was constantly bullied and bullied. And she was pushed and pushed to the point where she couldn’t handle it anymore. And if you could spread the word about the website ask.fm, & how it needs to be shut down, that would be amazing too. Ask.fm is a website where people can ask anonymous questions to anyone they want. And thats how Jessica was constantly put down and bullied.

I know they think what they are doing is logical, but unless Laney left a note explaining exactly why she decided to kill herself, then no one knows if the Ask.fm comments had anything to do with her decision. Even if the comments did factor into her deciding to hang herself, why would Ask.fm share in any of that blame? I’m not condoning the negative comments made towards Laney, but the site was specifically setup for anonymous posting. What do people expect? Teenagers can be assholes, especially when donning the cloak of anonymity.

To me, the real solution to the problem of teens and cyber-bullying is a simple one that I have repeated ad nauseam, and its not for parents to keep their kids offline. Parents just need to MONITOR THEIR ONLINE ACTIVITY. I’m not blaming Laney’s parents for their dead kid, but they are solely responsible for being unaware of the disparaging comments suspected of pushing Laney to commit suicide.

I may not know everything going on my teen’s life, but it isn’t for lack of trying. Teens are secretive, prone to massive brain farts, and surrounded by peers who have parents who don’t give a shit if their 15-year-old posts a picture online of themselves holding a bag of weed. Because of this, we actively monitor his online activities. My teen cannot count how many times me or his mother have called him regarding a tweet he’s made on Twitter, or a comment he’s made on Facebook, with the simple instruction, “Delete it.”

The one stipulation we have regarding our kid’s online accounts is that we have the passwords for all of them. Of course he’s probably got multiple accounts, but still, he knows we are watching. Sometimes all it takes to circumvent unbridled stupidity is a little involvement. We give him enough space to be young, fun, and dumb… but when he inevitably posts something publicly that may hurt him in the future, we have no issues stepping in, much to his dismay.

As a parent, part of your job is protecting your kids from harm, even if that means occasionally protecting them from themselves. I will never fathom why some parents feel their job as a parent ends as soon as their kids park their asses in front of a computer.

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