The week before last, I was dealing with my teen daughter being bullied by a classmate that thought it was ok to tell her she was a “negative zero” on a scale of one to ten, then went on to tell her to kill herself when my daughter inquired as to why she’d said that about her. While I can understand that this classmate is only a child, I have a hard time understanding that she is permitted to use the foul language and be such a bully to my child and others. Her behavior is toxic to those around her and she is a virus spreading negativity and passing it along to other people making them fear her wrath if they oppose her.
The teen years are hard for most everyone no matter the social class or ethnicity. They are different levels of difficult, but teens start having new and different feelings that make them feel it much stronger than we do as we get older and more accustomed to deal with these emotions.
I reported this girl to the social network, Facebook, for “encouraging self harm,” which against their terms. Facebook returned my concern stating that none of their terms were violated and they would do nothing to remove the post. After I printed the post to a PDF file and saved it, my daughter deleted it herself. I decided to hang on to it in case she made another attempt to contact my daughter for the purpose of harassing her.
Yesterday, my daughter told me her friend was being picked on the same way as she had been. I went into Facebook and there it was. The same girl, we’ll call her Phoebe, was picking on my daughter’s friend, we’ll call her Ally. I couldn’t see what she had said to Ally, but a new post was on Phoebe’s page with many comments against Ally. Ally’s mom intervened and asked them to stop. The kids respectfully apologized and quit. Just kidding. The little jerks started in on Ally’s mom telling her to “butt out” and “act grown”. They started name calling and addressing Ally’s mom in the most inappropriate ways.
I sent a private message to Ally’s mom and asked her if we could talk. She was polite, kind, and wanted to find a way to resolve the issues with Phoebe as well. She said she’d already talked to the school about the issues with this girl and one other that has been harassing my daughter, Ally, and another girl in that social circle. The school doesn’t appear to have spoken to the girl or her parents about this problem.
I still plan to take the issue with my daughter to the school. I plan to stay on the administrators and ask whether they’ve contacted the girls parents. I want the school to take the issue of bullying more seriously. It seems like this is a much bigger problem at her school than some others and that the kids are especially eager to threaten physical violence. This is unacceptable. I’ve been doing some research on http://www.meganmeierfoundation.org/ about cyber bullying and it is unsettling.
Are parents really doing enough to prevent their kids from being a cyber bully or being the victim of it? Will people please watch what their kids do and say online and take personal responsibility for helping them make good choices when it comes to the internet? I have a contract with my daughter about internet use. She is to disclose her username on all accounts and give me access as requested. It also outlines responsibility to avoid hate speech, profanity, and other things that may hurt her online persona. While I don’t read everything she does every day, she knows I’m instilling good habits and won’t always be lurking in the shadows.
Please, when thinking about letting your kid get online, remember that they need guidance. This is a scary place where people aren’t usually what they seem to be. People are less likely to use discretion with their words because they can hide behind a keyboard, blame a hacker, and/or they don’t think anybody is watching.
If you’re a teen and someone is saying terrible things about you or to you, please tell someone you trust. It can be your parents, another relative, a teacher, school counselor, or even a friend’s parent. They care more than you think. You aren’t alone. You aren’t the words they’re trying to hurt you with. There are more people who love you than that small group of people who are being nasty.
If you’re a witness to bullying, report it.
This is a very real problem. It isn’t just a hot button topic that just came along. Bullying is worse now than it was before because it is much harder to escape than before the digital age. Now the bullies are at school, on the phone, and the computer. They don’t go away.