It’s been about a month and a half since Amanda Bennett killed herself and her three children. But before committing the tragic murder/suicide she posted comments on an Internet forum site called Topix.com. There, Amanda talked about her divorce and the hardship that her family was facing as a result. Anonymous users on Topix left a string of comments blaming Amanda for the divorce, which eventually led to one final post from her: “Now it’s time to take the pain away”.
Topix, which is mainly a news site, has gained popularity in small towns, especially in Kentucky. The site doesn’t require users to register in order to comment or start a conversation, so the comment threads are riddled with everything from spam to local gossip. I’ve had several people message me requesting that I check out the site, saying that it was one of the worst when it came to cyberbullying, and after only an hour on the site, I have no doubt that they’re right.
Twenty minutes into checking out the site, I stumbled upon forums where people were discussing topics like “any horny married women around this town?”, a poll about the cutest 9th grade girl at TVHS (an obvious recipe for cyberbullying), and resources for those interested in buying methadone.
Parents, feel free to add Topix.com to your list of blocked sites. There’s a good chance that kids won’t end up on this site as it’s more appealing to an adult audience, but let’s not to take those chances.
In the end I can’t help feeling as though the operators of this site are living under a rock, considering all the news in mainstream media about cyberbullying and online predation. Or do they not care to make their site safer for their users? Topix disguises itself as a professional news resource, but the deeper you dig, you start to see just how gritty and dark the conversations can get. Nonetheless, Topix is a perfect example showing how the Internet can bring out the best in people, and the worst.
Let’s keep our kids safe online—I always remind parents to click six, seven, eight pages deep into any website that their kids visit. It’s an easy way to understand the culture, content and type of people that await your child in a particular site. And more importantly, it’s an easy way for you to decide if the site is right for them. Also, continue to talk with your kids. It may seem like they don’t listen sometimes, but they hear us. And if they know that you know what’s going on online, they’ll be even more inclined to listen.
There are probably hundreds of these sites out there, so if you know of any that are similar to Topix, please, leave a comment to share with other readers.