Recently our 13-year-old son endured a vicious case of cyberbullying by a fellow classmate. The bully was a boy he shared homeroom with for the past two years. A boy he shared a tent with on overnight field trips. A boy whom he’s always been nice to. A boy he considered a friend.
My son doesn’t have any social media accounts, so were it not for his friend alerting us to what was happening, we never would have known. The bully created a mean-spirited Instagram “fan” page about my son. It accumulated over 550 followers and contained identifying information including our son’s full name, nickname, photograph, and where he attended school. It also said he had brain cancer, was “awful at soccer,” and made reference to his private parts.
We were stunned, but what became even more stunning was the complete silence from this child’s parents. And yes, he’s still considered a child in my book. I was friends with the mom on Facebook until she eventually blocked me – no doubt because she wanted the entire situation and any vestige of our existence to disappear. Until then, she liked my posts and I liked hers, yet this became, quite literally, the virtual elephant in the room.
Had the shoe been on the other foot I would have reached out immediately to this family. Even the police were involved, yet there was still radio silence from the boy's parents. I mentioned to the school that I wanted to contact the family to talk about it so we could put the incident behind us – but the family refused.
I did finally receive a short Facebook message from this boy’s mom because a mutual friend confronted her and said how upset our son was. She told me she thought the school was handling it. Yes, they were trying to handle it the best way they could, but leaving school staff to handle your kid’s issues seems to be the way it rolls these days. I’m still of the belief that learning starts at home and the same goes for teaching accountability.
1 | We don’t hate your son, we hate what he did.
2 | We don’t hate you, we hate that you weren’t paying attention to what your kid was doing.
3 | Our son’s privacy was seriously violated.
4 | I saw on Facebook that you had “three crapola days in a row.” So did we.
5 | When things aren’t dealt with right way they fester like a pus-filled sore.
6 | When I run into you at school or Trader Joe’s, it will be awkward.
7 | This deeply shook and affected our entire family, including my parents who are in their 70s.
8 | This hurt my son but hurt his twin brother even more and on a very deep level.
9 | I lost sleep over this. I cried over this. A simple, “Hey, we’re sorry for what happened and we’ll do everything in our power to never let it happen again,” delivered mom-to-mom, would have soothed the heartbreak.
Children learn from their parents. Often bullies beget bullies. And make no mistake, bullying is real. It affects people every day. Kids take their own lives over it. It’s NEVER a joke and should never be referred to in that way.
Listen to your kids. Pay attention to what they're doing online, keep computers and devices out in common areas of the home. As long as they are under your roof it’s your job to not just protect them but protect those whom they may be hurting.
Thankfully my son was able to reconcile what happened and reached out to this boy and was able to remain on friendly terms. We were so proud of him for that. The mom still avoids me or diverts her glance, but when our eyes have met I do say hello. I wish we could have spoken about it but there was continued refusal, so I've moved forward knowing it’s not my issue any more.