Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday, August 12 2019.

Last week on Wednesday evening a 14-year-old lost his life to a suspected overdose. Carson Crimeni was alone as he struggled to stay alive, after being surrounded by a crowd of teenagers, some of whom filmed him and posted the video online. His grandfather found him in ‘very bad shape’ near Walnut Grove skate park in Langley. Carson was still breathing but died later that night in the hospital.

There are also rumours that was he was bullied into taking the drugs by the same people who then documented the aftermath. His cell phone was found in a nearby garbage can.

I never thought that would be possible. Who could do such a thing? Why? Hopefully we will see this investigated and the people responsible for it brought to justice. Meanwhile, those people are out there and they know who they are.

They have by now learned about the death of the boy whom they watched overdosing. For anyone wondering if perhaps this was ‘a mistake and we all make mistakes’, there is evidence to the contrary: One of them added a caption to his Snapchat broadcast that accurately described the situation, minus the age of the boy who was 14, and not 12 (even more reason to stop everything and call 911 to report it.) That is not only lack of compassion, but lack of basic humanity.

If someone is in distress, you call for help; it’s that simple. No matter how you turn it, the lack of heart those people revealed through their actions is frightening.

It is heartbreaking to think about it. In fact, it is way beyond that. Unthinkable. Carson was someone’s most beloved baby (a single child and grandchild too.) It is hard to imagine how a parent can go through this kind of pain and it is impossible not to ask, ‘what if that were my child?’.

I am, like many other parents, among the lucky ones. Our kids are still with us.

But do we know what happens when our teenage children leave home to go hang out with friends? Are they keeping the values we have tried to instill in them over the years as they are growing apart from us; are they kind and compassionate when they need to be; are they aware of situations going from bad to worse and would they have the courage to intervene no matter their peers’ opinion of them?

In other words, if you are a parent, do you know who your child is as he or she is growing up? Do they have the courage to own up to mistakes or share messy, ugly stories? Can you imagine your kid being among those who filmed Carson Crimeni while he overdosed, posting the video online and laughing about it, and then leaving the scene?

I cannot.

Every generation is different than the one before, yet the emergence of smart phones and social media have completely changed the collective and individual lives of today’s youth.

Being aware of this reality and becoming part of it from the sidelines as a parent (I do not imply becoming a helicopter parent but being an adult that is safe to talk to,) is a must. It is often hard to keep a straight face when some stories come about, as some are more disturbing than others. School yard fighting is nothing new (unfortunately) but the filming of the fight by those who stand around is not.

Videos of fights, of kids taking drugs or selfies while being high are not a rare occurrence anymore either. But here is one humbling thing we ought to learn from that as parents and as a society (the village raising our children collectively…): becoming aware of your child’s whereabouts and their encounters with drugs, violence, and bullying is a must.

I do not mean pinning them with their backs to the wall but having open conversations about all of this. One too many kids, some even as young as grade 7, think that being cool comes with taking drugs, vaping or drinking. Acceptance in a group that is conditioned by taking drugs or drinking is not acceptance, but a form of bullying that children subscribe to and the results can be devastating.

Carson’s heartbreaking story is slowly fading away from the news. The pain his family is left with will not, ever. Knowing that he could have been saved, if only… that is perhaps the most painful aspect of it. That’s where the rest of us must step in and do our part in raising children that will know the difference between fun and bullying, between right and wrong, and ultimately life and death.

Past that, as there is only that far that healthy parenting can go, here’s to wishing that each of us, young and old and everyone in between, stands up to be accountable for what their actions cause in the community. That is a long shot yet, but possible.