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Amanda Todd legacy — one year after her death
A year after her daughter died, Carol Todd is still dealing with the issues that Amanda Todd's death raised and hoping to be a powerful agent of change.
In the months since Amanda took her own life, Todd has been invited to events across Canada to be a speaker and act as an advocate for anti-bullying measures and a safer online environment for kids. She was a guest at Toronto's We Day, met Prime Minister Stephen Harper along with the parents of Rehtaeh Parsons, the Nova Scotia teen who committed suicide in April after suffering bullying and harassment, and took part in a Beyond Borders symposium with them to talk about child sexual exploitation in the digital age.
She has started a foundation to promote mental wellness for children and youth, blogs and runs a website in support of the Amanda Todd Legacy, and tracks international headlines and stories on issues raised by Amanda's death, including cyberbullying, youth mental health and sexual exploitation.
"I'm still doing what I'm doing as a mom," Todd says, noting there are days when she gets a little tired and frustrated by the slow pace of change.
CYBERSTALKER NOT FOUND
Her daughter's cyberstalker has never been found, children are still vulnerable online and Todd herself has been victimized by haters and stalkers online. A thick skin was something she developed early as she started telling her daughter's story through the media just a few weeks after her daughter's suicide on Oct. 10.
She laid low for about five weeks — "That gave me perspective" — and dealt with her grief by speaking out on issues she thought were important to Amanda because they were raised in a poignant video she posted before her death.
"What I'm doing is for me. This is how I'm able to cope and handle it," says Todd in the bright kitchen of her Port Coquitlam home.
She's back part-time at her job as an assistive technology educator with School District 43, helping students with special needs use technology so they learn better. She also continues to see a counsellor regularly and is grateful for the support of family and friends.
Many hours of her day are spent on projects she hopes will further Amanda's legacy. For example, she's actively promoting the Light up Purple for Mental Health, in support of World Mental Health Day tomorrow Oct. 10 (see related story, this page) because Amanda suffered from depression and hurt herself as a way to deal with bad feelings or thoughts. Todd says supporting youth with mental health issues is one of her biggest causes.
"Amanda struggled and I couldn't protect her and now people are coming to me," Todd says.
In fact, she believes her daughter's death, and the tragic video — which has been viewed some 16 million times online — have been agents of change in ways that are at once gratifying and unexpected. Although laws to protect children are slow to come, and may even be impossible to legislate or enforce, Todd is encouraged by the way people have opened up about issues such as child mental health, cyber-bullying and online sexual exploitation.
She has also been heartened by efforts made by governments to combat bullying through education and awareness, such as B.C.'S ERASE Bullying website, although she is concerned that the reporting tool isn't staffed in the summer. She's also pleased to see more education resources for children and parents, including School District 43's new digital responsibility code of conduct.
The online environment isn't perfect, it may even be more dangerous than it was a year ago by its very addictiveness, especially among teens (Todd says she's even a technology addict and has to force herself to turn off her phone). But she is hopeful that with more are more eyes on the cyberstalkers, more savvy parents who are willing to follow their kids on social media, and their kids' friends, and with more people talking about the issues, there will be fewer teens who consider killing themselves as a way to deal with bad things that happen online.
"It's all of that, being a global citizen, not just one family taking care of their own kids, but everyone looking out for each other and those at-risk kids," she says. "In order to keep kids safe, you have to do it."