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Parents of tragic Bournville teen speak out on Facebook fears

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Parents of tragic Bournville teen speak out on Facebook fears

Post  Guest on Wed 11 Aug - 11:56

Parents of tragic Bournville teen speak out on Facebook fears

Jul 21 2010



THE parents of a 15-year-old boy who was found hanged at his Birmingham home after he was allegedly bullied on Facebook have spoken about the tragedy for the first time.

Robert and Tracy Mullaney believe their son Tom was the victim of a new type of bullying where abuse written in front of an on-line audience made him “snap”.

They claimed the virtual arena was a place where teenagers could declare “open season” on each other and just one word aimed at another user could quickly escalate into a tirade with others chipping in.

Speaking for the first time from their Bournville home, surrounded by photos of a smiling Tom, they told how they still expected to see the Kings Norton Boys’ schoolboy come down the road on his BMX.

Robert revealed his son had a “short fuse” but this was improving.

And he said that, notwithstanding the alleged bullying, he believed his son’s death was an accident.

The last time they saw him was as they left for a parenting night course, where they were learning how to help him. As they went everything appeared normal – Tom was on Facebook, with the TV and music on in the background.

A live chat with a boy was still on the screen when they returned home but there was no sign of their son, who they assumed was at the home of a friend.

They said he had been accused of harming a younger boy in school earlier that day. They believe it had spilled over into a row on the social networking site.

Tracy, who is 43 and also mum to 17-year-old Ashley, said: “He didn’t hurt the boy, I don’t think. Tom was adamant he never touched the lad and I believe him, but we believe it all escalated over Facebook.”

Robert, aged 47, said: “The chat was quite a long conversation and it wasn’t all on one side. Someone had written ‘It sounds like he’s a right bully’ about Tom on the person’s wall. For them to get to that conversation I don’t know what was said before.

At some point along the line someone’s going to snap and say ‘I’ve had enough, I don’t want to read this any more, why are they picking on me? What have I done?’” Tracy said: “Well that’s what’s happened to Tom isn’t it?”

When Robert got up for work, at 5.30am the next day, Tom was still missing so he tried his mobile phone.

The Jaguar Land Rover worker said: “He wasn’t there so Tracy said ‘just pop down the garden and see if he’s there’. I opened the shed up and I couldn’t see anything.

“As I walked back I heard his mobile phone going. Tracy was phoning his phone and I looked down the garden. There was a gap between the shed and the bushes at the bottom and he just appeared to be standing there.

“I said ‘Come on, I’m late for work’ and walked away. It was quite dark and my eyes hadn’t adjusted to the dusk.”

Then he realised something was terribly wrong.

Sports Mad

TOM should have been on work experience this week installing satellites with his uncle Graham in Cornwall.

The sporty youngster, who wanted to become a PE teacher and played for Bournville football team The Crusaders, had just been bought a season ticket for the Blues. He was also looking forward to getting a new phone and talked about owning a Vauxhall Corsa when he could learn to drive.

Robert added: “In my mind it was an accident. I think he snapped in a very short space of time.

“It’s the tragic end to something out of nothing. I can’t see him being picked on and picked on, it was all about the night. It doesn’t have to be long-winded.

“It could just be one day of having been bombarded with all this. Children have got to realise whether it’s short-term or long-term it has its consequences.

“If this can happen to Tom, who was quite strong-minded and quite a strong character, what about those kids out there who aren’t?

“Facebook has a responsibility to safeguard individuals who use it but are bullied or threatened and there should be something there to stop it.”

A Facebook spokesman said: “There’s no place for cyberbullying on Facebook. There is also no single answer or silver bullet that can eradicate bullying, online or offline, but we continue to invest in improving the experience for our users on the site.

“ To do this we work closely with them, law enforcement, and organisations such as BeatBullying, to make it easier for people to get help when they feel threatened.

“We are aware that Facebook is one of many lines of inquiry the police are looking into regarding this case. We echo the advice of the police and encourage anyone who is experiencing bullying in any form to talk to someone they trust about it. Protecting young people online requires an ongoing partnership between parents, educators, users and web services and we have a lot of information available on our safety centre www.facebook.com/safety ”

Tom’s headteacher, Roy Baylis, did not want to comment.

Police have taken Tom’s laptop and phone away and their inquiries are still ongoing. A date is yet to be set for the inquest following Tom’s death on May 20.

http://www.birminghammail.net/news/top-stories/2010/07/21/parents-of-tragic-bournville-teen-speak-out-on-facebook-fears-97319-26895402/
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