Tragic teens like Hannah Smith inhabit an online world where adults fear to tread

Like the island in Lord of the Flies, this unreal world probably felt exciting at first, but some of its inhabitants have lost all sense of humanity, decency and morality

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The Independent Online

In the wake of the tragic death of Hannah Smith, who took her life after anonymous bullying online, stands the stark message she left behind.

Before she hanged herself alone in her room, she had handwritten a simple note - beautifully crafted in pen and ink - and held it up to a camera. There was something old-fashioned about it - no text speak, not typed. It must have taken her ages, as she poured over every stroke of the pen.

She posted a picture of this small work of art on Facebook. You've probably seen it.

It read:

'You think you want to die, but in reality you just want to be saved'

It is clearly moving and a cry for help. But it seems to me to go further than that. Along with the calligraphy, it's the word 'reality' in the middle of the sentence which feels like broken glass.

Because perhaps it was only 'reality' which could have saved her.

Like the boys who crashed onto the island in Lord of the Flies, Hannah had found herself in an unreal world which probably at first felt like a new and exciting community - where most adults choose not to tread - where you make your own rules.

But what she got was a society of faceless, untouchable and unknowable individuals - some of whom, like Golding's creations, had lost all sense of humanity, decency, morality.

As the cry goes up for 'something must be done'  - as the government is pressed to intervene - maybe it's time we all had a reality check.  While we distractedly check our blackberries or indulge ourselves on Twitter, our kids - on other screens - are being pulled into worlds we can't imagine.

This summer perhaps it is truly the moment - just for a time - to literally switch off. To look up from our screens, lose the masks we all wear online, and look at each other.