Dad Desperate to Stop Cyber Bullying of Daughter

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Photo courtesy dosomething.org
Photo via dosomething.org

Dear Whit:

I hope you can help us with this problem because we don’t know what to do. My daughter is being bullied by a group of girls who shun her at school and post cruel messages on social media at night. It’s so bad that she doesn’t even want to go to school. As I’m sure you can imagine, this is upsetting to us and ruins school as well as out-of-school activities for our daughter. This whole situation has me angry and confused. How do you think my wife and I should deal with it?

Mad Dad

Dear Mad:

In this brave new world of cyber-space, you will encounter people who are nothing close to brave. You and your daughter probably feel helpless against this Lord of the Flies brand of senseless, gratuitous, and cowardly cruelty. However, you have recourse that could prove effective in stopping the e-bullying and shunning of your daughter, especially because of the cyber component.

First of all, you can contact the school where the shunning is taking place. If any social media are being used during school, you can also present that factor to the school administration for redress. If your daughter’s school has a 24-hour honor code, this cyber bullying would also be subsumed within that policy’s purview.

After being apprised of the bullying, the school would have to bring in the girls as well as their parents. In all likelihood, the parents will not know that they might be liable for the misconduct of their daughters, but legally they can be. Informing the parents in front of the girls should communicate to the girls the seriousness of this bullying breach. In addition to a violation of school rules, the behavior could also be illegal and involve the police—that’s no exaggeration.

If any threats or intimidation appear on social media, charges can be facilitated by the authorities without much trouble. The nature of cyber activity makes documentation easy to obtain and those using it easy to identify. For some inexplicable reason, people who violate social or legal norms via social media have little idea how easy they are to catch. Why they do it is hard to explain.

If your daughter wonders why these girls are mistreating her, tell her that you don’t know but that something is wrong with them, not her; more to the point, the reasons for such malicious misconduct are really beside the point as far as you are concerned. You and your wife are not sociologists, or psychologists, or criminologists whose professional function is to explain this anti-social behavior; you are parents who want to stop it.

In Jane Eyre, the young Jane resolves to confront the perpetrators of her cruel mistreatment with superior force; in the circumstance of your daughter, I agree with Jane’s approach.  When I was younger than your daughter, my father told me not to back down from a bully and to let him know that he was going to get a fight if he tried to pick on me.  As I recall, the bully backed down and off after I gave him a fight.

The result should be the same in your daughter’s case, except the fight is legal. Just as Jane Eyre wanted her tormentors to suffer, so should you expect your daughter’s malefactors to feel the sting of the law’s redress. Through the school or the police, you and your wife can let the bullying girls (and their parents) know they’ve been in a fight. The superior and legitimate force of the authorities, whether the school or the police, should produce discomfort if not pain for the bullies and their parents.

A song from the 70s by Hall & Oates contains the lyrics: “It’s so easy to hurt others when you can’t feel pain.” Since pain (like death) has a marvelous way of concentrating the mind, maybe for these Mean Girls, this new focus for them will bring some new feeling for others. Now  you can do more than hope.

Got questions about life? Love? Parenting? Work? Write to Whit’s End, an advice column by local husband, father, teacher, coach, former executive and former Marine Corps officer Al Whitaker.  Send your questions to [email protected]



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6 COMMENTS

  1. I think this is probably very good advice, but I would love to hear commentary from a psychologist (especially one who has dealt with adolescent girls). Having raised two girls, I was floored at how cruel the “pack” can be. Sometimes they pick on what they perceive as weakness, but other times they would turn just as viciously on someone who tried to fight back. It is a scary group-think, mob mentality, and is often unpredictable. The experience my boys had was much different, and certainly with boys, I do think it is best to fight back when dealing with a bully (ask anyone who’s been in jail…..not that I have had personal experience!). Anyway, my empathy and prayers go out to Mad Dad and his wife and daughter — there’s not much worse than seeing your children suffer and feeling powerless to help them. I hope things will get better soon.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful and informed point, Millicent. What you say about vicious girls is no doubt the case. What I tried to make clear about “fighting back” was that it is legal and institutional to the degree that it makes parents aware that they are liable. If the parents feel threatened, especially with legal action,they might put some real pressure on the Mean Girls to quit it.

  2. Reading this made me feel physically Ill, because my daughter was in a situation like this for years. We kept trying to make things better, but didn’t decide to pull the plug until a lot of damage had been done. Sometimes the best thing you can do is start from scratch at a new school. Oh and by the way, you can still nail those bully girls and their negligent parents to the wall while your daughter gets on with her life in a much more reasonable environment.

    • Excellent point, Dad. If you just pull out your daughter from the school where the bullying is going on, the bullies will just find someone else, even more emboldened by having made your daughter “run.” By “nailing” the mean girls you reduce the chances of another girl just taking your daughter’s place.

  3. Great column, Whit! Very important stuff, too. There are always tons of instances of bullying that take place via the internet, texting, social media, etc that are so difficult for people to address. Whoever Mad Dad is just got some truly golden advice.

    • Thanks, Loyal. You make a valuable point about how much of this is going on and how it needs to be dealt with in ways that stop or at least discourage it. Keep reading and commenting!

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