Internet killed my daughter
Suicide girl dad's shock at change in Georgina (15)
Published 03/07/2007 | 10:27
The grieving father of an Ulster schoolgirl who took her own life today warned of the dangers linked to internet sites which he believes contributed to her death.
Ian McAllister - whose only daughter Georgina took her own life in her garden - spoke out about the damaging influence "unreal people" in social networking sites - such as Bebo - can have on teenagers.
The 45-year-old from Annahilt, Co Down says that while it might not be possible to shut down sites, he believes parents should be able to monitor who their children are online with.
The Wallace High School pupil (15) was found dead in the garden of her Annahilt home on June 9.
Her death has left the family, including Georgina's mother Vanessa, brother Stuart (16), schoolfriends and teachers "devastated".
"It is still a massive shock," he said. He revealed that after his daughter's suicide he was disturbed by her Bebo webpage which he believes had changed just one week before she died.
"Her previous site had been very positive, it was very vibrant," he said.
She had used the Bebo webpage to list achievements such as two All-Ireland netball medals she won with her school team.
"When I looked at the new site it did shock me," he said.
"It was dull, with different photographs, I didn't recognise that person as my daughter.
"It had dark signs, and her previous achievements and interests were not there," he said.
Mr McAllister said he believes during the last few weeks of her life Georgina was searching for new friends after old friends separated as activities finished.
Now he believes the updated site indicates she could have felt pressure from other website users to change her image.
"She seems to have felt she had to change her appearance," he said. "Perhaps an older person was influencing her to go beyond what a 15-year-old would do and try and consider things that she wasn't comfortable with.
"There are people if you saw them in the street you would walk to the other side, but you can't avoid them in many cases on a social networking site."
Mr McAllister said he strongly believes such sites need to be strictly monitored.
"What I would like is some sort of register, so when a child goes on to something like Bebo and they are under 18 the parent would be sent a letter to say the account has been opened up and they are then given an access code and pin number.
"That would allow them to check what the child was doing and see who they are talking to."
He urged parents to monitor sites their children use.
"Our computer was in the kitchen, it is quite a big area - quite open and looks quite innocent. It seemed in the last week Georgina became addicted almost to MSN/Bebo and because of that she was dealing with 'unreal people'. Unfortunately it appears this search for new friends has ended with tragic circumstances. I just hope no other family has to go through this heartbreak."
Meanwhile, 8,000 suicide awareness leaflets outlining warning signs will be delivered to homes across areas of west Belfast after the suicide of nine people in five weeks.
Other crisis helplines include:
- Samaritans on 08457 909090 or email email@example.com
- Childline on 0800 1111
- PIPS (Public Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide and Self Harm) on 0808 808 8000