So, I’ve heard about it, I’ve done stories about it, but this past week, I actually saw it for myself. A child using threats and foul language to disparage another child online. Wow, it was like seeing Santa Claus stepping out of the chimney and dusting soot off of his jacket.
Yes, Virginia, this thing they call online bullying really does exist.
As I’ve already established, I monitor my middle school daughter’s online communications with her full knowledge. In this particular instance, a girl from another school had written something mean about my daughter on a platform called Instagram.
To my daughter’s credit, she responded to the child (yes they’re still children in my opinion) without threats or foul language. Luckily, my daughter inexplicably has the confidence of a 50-year-old woman. So, unlike how I would have reacted at that age, she was not the least bit upset.
However, it occurred to me that for a child with a different emotional makeup this situation could be tragic. That’s why parents need to make it stop.
The question is what do we do? The first thing I did was tell my daughter not to engage with this child in any way. Have no communication with her. This is someone she has never even met and doesn’t go to school with. There is no reason for them to have any interaction.
Because the child doesn’t go to my daughter’s school, I don’t know the parents to even begin a dialogue with them. If I received the very same message, I might have called 911, because it is against the law to communicate threats or harass someone.
But I’m pretty sure children don’t understand these concepts, thus involving criminal sanctions is probably not the way to go, at least in the first instance. It’s very hard to teach kids to have civil discourse online when adults clearly haven’t even mastered it yet.
Little did we know when George Orwell referred to “Big Brother” in his classic science fiction novel 1984, that instead of the government monitoring us, it would refer, instead, to us monitoring one other.
As of this writing, I’m still mulling over my options on this particular situation. Meanwhile, my daughter continues with her Facetiming, Instagramming, Skyping, texting, you name it, in joyful oblivion that Big Mother is watching every keystroke.
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including three on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.