Tysen Benz was found hanging by the neck in his home on March 14. For three weeks his mother, Katrina Goss, stayed by her son’s side while he lay on life support. However, Benz died from his injuries on April 4.
According to Goss, her son tried to kill himself because of “a horrific act of a social media prank.” The prank was done by another juvenile, a 13-year-old girl. It is believed she and Benz were in a relationship.
Investigators have found evidence of social media communications between the girl and Benz prior to his suicide attempt. The girl allegedly stated she was going to kill herself, and then faked her death with the help of her friends. According to Goss, Benz believed the girl, and he stated, “I’m going to kill myself.” Goss noted that no one bothered to alert an adult to what was happening.
“He was the happiest, most joyous child until he met her, she was mean to him, controlled him and took advantage of him,” said Goss. “Even after I repeatedly told her to leave him alone.” Goss said she even attempted to communicate with the girl’s mother and aunt. She says she was against their relationship from the start, mainly because of the age difference.
The girl is being charged with “Malicious use and computer-using to commit a crime,” and the matter is being investigated further. This incident brings to light once again how powerful social media can be, especially to minors. Goss believes her son was a victim of a terrible case of cyberbullying. Could it be that this young boy was so eager to please a girl he likes that he was willing to do the unthinkable? Did he really intend to kill himself?
How can a boy so young be certain of what his intentions and true feelings are? These are questions we may never know the answers to. However, such a tragedy points to the damage social media can do to young minds. According to Child Mind Institute, “Social media and text messages that have become so integral to teenage life are promoting anxiety and lowering self-esteem.”
Dr. Donna Wick, a clinical and developmental psychologist at Mind to Mind Parent says, “Kids text all sorts of things you would never in a million years contemplate saying to anyone’s face.” She also noted that social media teaches our kids to do and say things that jeopardize relationships, which is the opposite of how good parents teach their kids when it comes to communicating.
Benz’s tragic and untimely death brings the focus once again on negligent, irresponsible use of social media through Cyberbullying. Goss described her son as “a charismatic and all around amazing child,” on the GoFundMe page in his honor. She desperately wants to get the message out that, “social media pranking needs to be taken very, very seriously.”
What do you think would make a child do such a prank? Do you think she knew he would believe her? Let’s talk about it here or on Twitter @lcarterwriter.