Like most parents, I never thought my child would end up being a victim of cyberbullying. I knew what cyberbullying was, and how prevalent it still is, but it never occurred to me that it might happen to my daughter. I’d say my daughter is above average; she’s about to graduate from Carnegie Mellon, after all. But when she was still in high school, she was a typical teen. She had friends and would play sports after school. For some reason, I assumed that only kids who were loners or too “different” had to deal with cyberbullying. But any child can be a victim. And it can happen to your kids too.
The Warning Signs
My daughter didn’t want to tell me what was going on. I noticed that she was starting to become more withdrawn and anxious. She stopped going on social media as much as she used to. Then, she wanted to skip sports practices and stopped going out with her friends. Her best friend’s mom, who used to share the driving with me, made up an excuse to stop carpooling.
At that point, I asked my daughter if she and her best friend had a fight or weren’t speaking. She burst into tears and said that her former best friend was being mean to her online. Then, she showed me her phone. There were dozens of text messages from her former friend and other classmates saying hateful things. They all called my daughter terrible names and told her to commit suicide. I quickly logged into her Facebook account and saw dozens of similar messages. My daughter was a victim of cyberbullying. And even worse, her former friend had years worth of secrets, stories, and other personal information that she was using against her.
How I Stepped In
At first, I didn’t know what to do. I felt so helpless. But I knew that I needed proof if I wanted other people to believe me. I started taking screenshots of every post and message. For good measure, I took screen shots of these kids’ profiles in case they deleted them. Once I printed everything out, I called the principal of her school to demand a meeting.
Originally, the principal told me that the school couldn’t get involved because the bullying was online, not on school property. But then I pointed out that some of the messages had to have been posted from school computers. These messages were posted during the day and students aren’t allowed to have cell phones with them while school is in session. After that, the principal changed his story.
I then demanded to meet with the parents of the kids who had been cyberbullying my daughter. When they tried to say they wasn’t their kids, I showed them the screen shots I took. Some of the parents weren’t surprised, but some were. However, all of them were embarrassed. The problem didn’t stop right away, but it did eventually. If your child is a victim of cyberbullying, the best thing parents can do is get involved. Get proof. Get the authorities involved, if necessary. Don’t stop fighting for your child until the situation is resolved.