A Real Story
Just a few short weeks ago, I walked into the ladies’ restroom at the high school where I teach and heard sobbing. Someone was in a stall bawling uncontrollably. By herself.
This wasn’t a muffled sniffle here and there. The sobs were coming out in waves and when she went to catch her breath I could tell her that her lip was was trembling. It was absolutely heartbreaking to witness that sound. I tapped lightly on the door of the stall, identified myself, asked if I could help, and waited for the door to open. What I came to discover after an hour spent with this fifteen-year-old girl and our school counselor was and is even more heartbreaking. This girl, this child, had discovered over her lunch that she was the subject of a Twitter poll. The poll, one that could be anonymously voted on, asked followers who the biggest slut in our school’s conference was. She and three other girls’ names in this area were listed and almost 100 different people had given their input.
Disgusting. Repulsive. Heartless.
Cyberbullying is Happening Now
This is bullying. Cyberbullying to be more specific and it is happening. It is happening in our schools, in our homes, all around us and it needs to be acknowledged. It needs to acknowledged by students, teachers, administrators, other school officials, and most importantly parents.
In this instance I’ve told you about above, parents and police were contacted and the students responsible for creating the poll were identified and punished and the poll was taken down. Those girls that were targeted though are still living with and dealing with the aftermath of it. The girl in the bathroom that day truly believed her life was over. She did not trust that things were going to get better and if you think about it, high school IS her world and that world had turned on her. This is the precise reason the suicide rate in the U.S. is climbing so steadily among teens.
Another brief but very real story that I heard from our school lawyer. Some high school boys created a Facebook page where they posted intimate pictures of girls. There was a group of boys soliciting these pictures via Snap Chat so that they could screenshot them and send them to the guys in charge of the page to be posted. Ugh, right? Those poor girls. Those darn boys. Well, Facebook makes it easy to find the creators of that page, they’re identified and punished heavily. Something like no smartphone or social media for ten or so years. On top of that, the parents of the boys had to pay EACH girl’s family $10,000. So, not only do you not want your child on the targeting or receiving end of these scenarios, you also likely cannot afford it.
What Parents Can Do about Cyberbullying
Parents, please, please talk to your children about this. Before you set them loose with that smartphone take the time to talk about what they are downloading. There are so many controls that you can put into place so that you are able to see what it is they are spending their time on. Check those controls. Be in the know.
Laws are being put in to place to crack down on these sort of scenarios but it cannot be stressed enough the impact that cyberbullying attacks like the ones mentioned have on the young lives being targeted. You have to make yourself aware, parents.
Protecting Your Kids from Cyberbullying
- Your children should not have any apps downloaded that you don’t have yourself or are not familiar with.
- You should be cognizant of any contact your child regularly interacts with.
- Know about location settings. Make it so that you can see where your child is, but nobody else can.
- Do not dismiss any behavior or signs that your child is bullying or being bullied. Talk about it! Make them talk about it. Get to the bottom of it. It can be embarrassing, messy, and uncomfortable. But it will be much less embarrassing, messy, and uncomfortable than the alternative.
- Check in often.
- Don’t be a bully. Be an example for your child.