Guest post by North Florida mother of a high-school girl and middle-school boy. October is National Bullying Prevention Month.
*click image for full size* Facebook post bullying the second girl who left the clique. The monkey comments stemmed from the girl standing next to a tree in her profile photo.
At first I adored my daughter’s new friend. She was (and still is) bubbly and vivacious. She was the queen bee of a group of four 8th graders who were inseparable. They appeared to love life: having fun at school, sunbathing and shopping on the weekends, and racking up minutes via endless text chats.
By the end of 8th grade I had figured out that she was also a bully.
My daughter left the clique when the girls started bullying more students. Her departure only fueled the girls’ meanness. They called her “ugly” and “ginger” (slang term for persons with red hair) in front of her peers and upperclassmen. They spread rumors about her, making it very difficult for her to make new friends. They edited her out of photos on Facebook and posted mean things on her wall, which intensified as other students joined in – the kids weren’t afraid to attack her because a computer screen blocked them from actual confrontation.
What had gone wrong and what could I do? My heart ached for my daughter.
Eventually, another girl was “ejected” from the original four and began the same painful path my daughter had traveled. Facebook posts calling her a “monkey,” others depicting her in sexual situations and worse were met with comments and likes from other students at a fast and furious pace. Enough was enough – I took action.
The second girl’s mother and I explained to the school principal that this was pervasive bullying, especially on social media. We were desperate for help and I will be forever thankful that he spoke to the girls and their parents. His authoritative position helped stop the bullying.
It is always wise to be aware of your child’s social media world. Even the savviest of kids can’t take care of things on their own and it is more than okay to bring in reinforcements.
Here are some tips from the free DCF and Ounce of Prevention Parenting Resource Guide e-book:
- Don’t assume your child knows how to handle every social situation. Talk to your child about not teasing or hurting other children
- Get to know all your child’s friends and friends’ parents.
- Monitor your child’s online activity.
Signs your child may be being bullied:
- Torn articles of clothing or missing belongings
- Fear of going to school or participating in organized activities
- Anxious or depressed when returning home from school
- Complains of illness such as stomach aches
What to do if your child is being bullied:
- Save all evidence of cyber bullying and report it to your website moderator, cell phone service provider, school officials or law enforcement officer.
- Don’t blame your child for provoking the situation; this can make the child feel further victimized and may close the lines of communication.
- Teach your child how to step away from the bullying situations instead of fighting back, which may make matters worse.