The New Kid at School
Henry was a shy sixth-grader who recently arrived at school from out of state. One day as he was browsing a social media site he came across a page about the school with pictures of students, including one of him labeled “The Fat Nerd.” Upset, he posted a reply expressing his dismay.
The postings became nastier, and soon some students were making loud comments in the lunchroom and on the playground. A teacher overhead some of the names, and asked Henry what was going on. He described the social media page and the cyberbullying.
The school, which had trained its teachers and had a zero-tolerance policy on bullying, responded quickly. They identified the ringleaders, and with the help of their parents, had the creator of the unauthorized school page take it down from the social media site. School officials hosted sessions for parents and students about cyberbullying and how to prevent it.
What Didn’t Work
Henry had to endure many weeks of feeling humiliated and hurt before anyone realized what was going on. His parents didn’t even know because Henry was too embarrassed to tell them. It will take the still-shy teen a long time to regain his confidence.
- Teach your kids early about acceptable wireless behavior, including how to identify and avoid bullying—online and off.
- Encourage your kids to tell you if someone texts or posts harmful or inappropriate messages or pictures about them. You may want to include this as part of your family’s rules.
- Learn about the wireless policies of your child’s school district and discuss them as a family.
- Learn about the state and/or federal laws that may help protect your kids and discuss them as a family.
- Use parental control tools to manage or monitor your kids activities, including social media profiles.
Gina, a exuberant and spirited high school freshman, had a falling out with a girlfriend over a boy they both liked at school. It wasn’t long before Gina began getting rude text messages to her phone at all hours, calling her names and saying inappropriate things such as, “I hope you die soon.” The angry friend had enlisted others to text hateful remarks to Gina too.
Gina was devastated, and soon began to withdraw from her friends and active social life. She spent more and more time alone in her room. Her mom grew concerned when Gina would no longer talk about what was going on at school or in her life. So she reached out to one of Gina’s closest friends, and learned about the hateful texts her daughter was receiving.
Gina’s mom took action before the emotional toll became worse. She told Gina she knew about the cyberbullying, and together, they discussed the situation with the school counselor and principal. With support from her family and teachers she trusted, Gina found the strength to talk to the girlfriend she had argued with, apologized for the quarrel and asked her to call off the texting campaign. While their friendship was over, the cyberbullying stopped.
What Didn’t Work
Gina’s parents had never talked about bullying, or how to handle such behavior when you become the victim. The 14-year-old was completely unprepared to face such a major assault on her self-esteem.
- Create family rules that equip your kids with information on how to identify bullying behaviors, and encourage them to tell you if they feel they are being bullied. This includes your child’s friends to be able to share with you if they are being bullied.
- Teach your kids about acceptable online behavior, including how bullying can turn into vicious cyberbullying.
- Use parental controls to block phone numbers that are the source of inappropriate texts.