An 11-year-old from Marquette, Michigan, took his own life after his 13-year-old girlfriend allegedly pulled a “manipulative” social media prank on him.
Tysen Benz, a student at Bothwell Middle School, hanged himself after his teenage girlfriend “did a prank that made it look like she killed herself and used other friends and their [social media] accounts to make it look like she killed herself. So, he believed her and said, ‘I’m going to kill myself.’”
“He was the happiest, most joyous child until he met her, she was mean to him, controlled him and took advantage of him," said Tysen’s grieving mother Katrina Goss. “Even after I repeatedly told her to leave him alone.”
Goss walked in on Tysen as he was trying to commit suicide. The police said they found him unresponsive when they arrived on the scene. They transported the child to a hospital in Ann Arbor, where he was put on a life support. He died of his injuries a few weeks later.
“I’m quite angry. I feel like, yeah, they’re young and all that… you’re completely knowledgeable of your choices and you know right from wrong. You can make your own choices,” Goss told the New York Post. “He was probably the most amazing kid that you would ever know. He was in every sport, he was super social, he had tons of friends and every single person who knew him loved him … He was the last person who would choose this choice, which I think was an impulsive choice.”
The authorities have charged the 13-year-old with “malicious use and computer-using to commit a crime.” They did not release the individual’s name because of her juvenile status.
The mother told BuzzFeed she was against the relationship, which had been going on for about five to six months, due to the age difference. In a separate interview, she said the students secretly began dating after Tysen bought a cell phone without his mother's knowledge.
Moreover, Goss claimed she had never personally met the girl, but saw her several times while picking up and dropping off her son at school.
“Our family is completely heartbroken. I urge families to speak out, reach out and communicate with your children about life's precious gift and the dangers of the internet and texting and how telecommunications can have the same effects as speaking face to face,” the mother wrote on the GoFundMe page set up in Tysen’s name. “I want Tysen to be remembered as he was and all the joy he's brought to everyone. Keep his spirit alive by standing strong & fighting against social media bullying.”
Although it is still unclear what motivated the teenage girl to pull such a horrible prank, the fact remains that both parents and children need to learn about the dangers social media might pose – be it cyber bullying or a manipulative practical joke.