A juvenile has been charged in relation to the death of 11-year-old Tysen Benz, who took his own life. His death by suicide was allegedly set off by a social media prank.
Prosecutors have authorized computer-related charges for a juvenile in connection with Benz's death, reports the Detroit Free Press. The charges against the unnamed minor are telecommunications services-malicious use and using a computer to commit a crime.
Tysen was the target of an elaborate social media prank, one that convinced him through photos and posts that his 13-year-old girlfriend had killed herself. Tysen responded that he would do the same.
Tysen's mother, Katrina Goss, found Tysen hanging in his bedroom March 14. He was taken to a local hospital where he was put on life support. He died from his injuries April 2, according to the New York Post.
“I feel like, yeah, they’re young and all that ... you’re completely knowledgeable of your choices and you know right from wrong," Goss told the New York Post. "You can make your own choices."
Goss said before charges were filed that she hoped whoever was responsible for her son's death would be held legally responsible. Goss also told BuzzFeed News that she believed Tysen's 13-year-old girlfriend was responsible for the incident.
"He was the happiest, most joyous child until he met her, she was mean to him, controlled him and took advantage of him," she said. "Even after I repeatedly told her to leave him alone."
William Saunders, superintendent of Marquette Area Public Schools, spoke of the community's response.
"Many of us have followed Tysen’s mother on social media and agree wholeheartedly in her statements regarding the dangers of social media," Saunders said. "After the gut-wrenching loss of a student we ask ourselves, ‘How can we do more?'"
"Social media harassment, bullying and pranking is a huge issue," Goss said. "The way it's used nowadays, kids are desensitized to social media and it really does hurt people."
"Even youth who have observed but not participated in bullying behavior report significantly more feelings of helplessness and less sense of connectedness and support from responsible adults (parents/schools) than youth who are have not witnessed bullying behavior," reads a pamphlet about bullying distributed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the CDC, bullying-related suicide is the third-leading cause of death for young people, amounting to 4,400 deaths per year. More than 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, reports Bullying Statistics.