October is National Bullying Prevention Month in the United States. As one way of recognizing the importance of anti-bullying efforts everywhere, we are presenting a two-part series examining STOPit’s genesis as an anti-bullying technology solution.
This post honors Amanda Todd. Her life and the circumstances of her death were the inspiration behind why STOPit’s company founder, Todd Schobel, founded the anonymous reporting app and incident management solution.
The girl’s hands trembled as she flipped through a stack of notecards. With a camera trained on her from the nose down — keeping a viewer’s full focus on the hand-written words in black marker, rather than her face – she slowly recounted an experience that had turned her life upside down and driven her to depression.
Fifteen-year-old Amanda Todd always loved the camera, and like a fellow Canadian teen named Justin Bieber, had a passion for sharing her music with the world on YouTube. Like many her age, she also explored the online frontier of chat rooms and livestream conversations. But one night, she made a teenage mistake of sharing intimate images of herself with a male chatting with her online. The person on the other end of the camera took a screenshot and attempted to blackmail her to do more.
She refused his demands, and the image was disseminated widely and repeatedly to her family, her classmates and beyond. Contacting the police, the passage of time — even switching to different schools — none of this helped stem the onslaught of cyberbullying that followed.
A month after sharing her story through flashcards in a heart wrenching video on YouTube, Amanda took her own life.
In the wake of her death, the video went viral around the world. But her story doesn’t end there. In fact, thanks to Amanda’s mother, Carol Todd, Amanda continues to have a positive impact, still bringing her own creative, inspiring spark into countless lives.
The Amanda Todd Legacy Society
Today, Amanda’s life — all of it — serves as a powerful warning to today’s young people and parents about the catastrophic seriousness of relentless bullying and harassment and a poignant plea to would-be cyberbullies to consider the ramifications of their actions. But, just as important, her life is inspiring thousands of others to take positive action against bullying and to pursue better mental health and wellness.
“She left a legacy behind,” said Carol. “Her YouTube video has become iconic. It’s been viewed 49 million times, spurred presentations, documentaries, and brought communities together around fighting bullying, including cyberbullying. When I travel abroad for speaking presentations, many know of the story of Amanda Todd, which is overwhelming.”
Amanda’s story continues to inspire HOPE FOR CHANGE in all of us. For kids in the U.S. and Canada. For Carol, who launched the Amanda Todd Legacy Society to raise awareness of cyber abuse. And to a commuter named Todd Schobel, who was so moved by a story he heard on the radio about Amanda that he created an anonymous reporting app called STOPit.
In the course of her advocacy work for the Society, Carol frequently hears stories about how Amanda has inspired people to act. “I received an email this morning from a middle-schooler mum. Her child has always had empathy for the kids who sit alone and are bullied,” said Todd in a recent interview. “This mum told me that her son stepped in to stop a bullying incident in the lunch room and sat with the boy, helped him clean up. The other boy said to him, ‘Thank you for helping. Thank you for coming to my side, no one has ever done that.’ It’s stories like this that Amanda’s story inspires people to share; inspires them to take action.”
Todd continued, “The son went home to his mum and asked her to speak to the school principal and take action, which he did. Then the local police found out and the mum told me they are presenting her son with a coin to acknowledge his actions.”
Other stories like this flood her email, everyday. Like the one from the father that walked from Pennsylvania to Santa Monica. He wrote Carol that he needed to do something positive to prove to his daughter that people can do good, positive things. “Your daughter’s story has affected me,” he wrote Todd, “and I want to do something positive to make a difference in my kid’s and other kid’s lives.”
In one, widely reported example, composer Jocelyn Morlock wrote a song called “My Name Is Amanda Todd,” which went on to garner a Juno Award, the Canadian equivalent of the Grammys. During the nationally televised awards gala, Morlock brought Carol with her on stage, turned to her and told her, “You are my hero.”
Amanda died six years ago on Oct. 10, which is also, coincidentally, recognized as World Mental Health Day. Each year, the Amanda Todd Legacy Society encourages cities, businesses, schools, landmarks and people to #LightUpPurple to promote awareness of mental health and Amanda’s story. To further its mission of education, bullying prevention, positive social change and mental health and wellness, The Society partners closely with various corporate partners to effect even greater impact — partners like Telus, a Canadian telecom company that funds TELUS Wise, a free educational program that teaches Canadians of all ages about managing their privacy, security and reputation online.
Learn More. Do More.
To read more about the Amanda Todd Legacy Society, get involved in the mission and see the Society’s recommended resources for bullying, cyberbullying, mental health and more, click here.
And if you live in the United States and you or someone you know is being harassed and bullied in school, online — anywhere — help is available.
With special thanks to Carol Todd for her help with this piece, and most especially for her work to help build a safer, kinder world for all of us.