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Just over Monteagle Mountain from Chattanooga in Manchester, Tennessee, a teenager is dead after being outed as bisexual on social media.

Channing Smith, 16, shot himself nine days ago on the same day two other teens are supposed to have revealed screenshots of his personal messages on Instagram and Snapchat.

Some will use the incident as another reason for people not to have ready access to guns. Their thinking would be if a gun weren't so handy, the Coffee County High School student might not have killed himself.

They may have a point, but suicidal people often find whatever means are necessary to take their lives.

So while the means is important in this case, we implore parents and children alike to examine their social media habits and for parents to explain to their children over and over the importance of proper online behavior and why cyberbullying is cruel and always inappropriate.

We don't pretend to know anything about Channing Smith, his family and what feelings prompted him to write the messages he did that were shared online. Nor do we have any knowledge of the teens who outed Smith and what their motivations were.

However, the Manchester incident is not isolated. Undoubtedly, parents in Chattanooga have experienced a child taking his or her life after something or another was exposed on social media. Their private tragedies just have not had national exposure.

This much we do know. Teenagers are growing into their bodies and experiencing a variety of natural sexual feelings as they transition from child to adult. Some are temporary. Some are not. And no one will experience exactly the same feelings as another.

At the same time, they're often not sure to whom they can talk with about those feelings. They're embarrassed or afraid of what their friends might say, and they're not exactly sure who they are so they're not ready to bring their parents into the conversation.

Reportedly, Smith expressed his feelings to another male teen on Facebook, but another friend said he "never classified specifically as" bisexual. Journaling your feelings is in no way wrong and can be a cleansing experience. Doing so even may reveal truths that weren't apparent before or expose others as false and not able to stand up to scrutiny.

But when your most intimate feelings are written on a site in which they may be seen by others, or at least have that potential, the privacy may be fleeting.

Teens, unfortunately, are no better than their adult counterparts in dispensing gossip. The more salacious the gossip is, the more it must be passed on like a hot potato. Whether it's true, whether it's permanent or not, are not important. The word, simply, must be spread.

"They did it to just completely humiliate and embarrass my brother," Joshua Smith, Channing's brother, told Nashville's WZTV. "Being in a small, rural town in the middle of Tennessee, you can imagine being the laughingstock and having to go to school Monday morning. He couldn't face the humiliation that was waiting on him when he got to school on Monday, so he shot and killed himself."

We hear from childhood that "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." And for some teens, that is true. They weather the slurs of being fat, ugly, gay, dirty, trashy or different and never miss a beat.

For others, for various reasons, words cut deeply. Maybe they internalize them because they haven't become strong enough to ignore them.

That's why parents must intervene. They must emphasize the pitfalls and dangers of social media. They must impress on their children the permanence of it and how damaging it can be if messages intended to be private are shared. They must reassure them about how and to whom they can express their thoughts and feelings properly and privately.

"No matter what," said Joshua Smith, "make sure your kids know that they're the number one priority in your life and that nothing, no choice, nothing that they could do could ever separate them from your love. This way there's not as much shame and guilt on anything going on in the kid's life that they would hesitate to come talk to you about."

And parents must walk the walk and not simply talk the talk. After all, a parent who would warn a child but then take to social media to spew political hate, innuendo and lies is no better than a cyberbully.

The internet and social media are incomparable communication tools. But like the tongue, they must be marshaled to be used properly.

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