I have three teens and they all have their own phones. They also have their own Instagram accounts. My kids have my permission to have an Instagram account as long as they aren’t being inappropriate assholes on their pages or their friends’ pages. That means it’s my and their father’s responsibility to dig deep about once a week to check up on them and their online behavior.
If you have tweens/teens who use social media, you should do this too.
That kid you think is extra nice and makes the high honor roll, he might be leaving racist comments. And your child, the one you think would never be mean or hateful behind their screen… well, you might be surprised.
Bullying, including cyberbullying, is nothing to scoff at. It has a horrible impact on kids’ mental health, including impacting their self esteem and causing depression, anxiety, affecting their learning, and promoting violent behavior. This is not something parents can ignore.
So, when my ex-husband called me to say he had some concerns after he’d checked out my daughter’s new boyfriend on Instagram, I knew we had to get involved.
A few days prior, the boyfriend posted a picture of a new pair of sneakers on his Instagram page and a girl left this comment: “Why are you dating a hoe?”
Immediately, I felt that stabbing rage that goes through you when you see someone has called your kid a derogatory name. I don’t care who you are or how much lavender you inhale or if you meditate on the regular, you feel that white hot rage. My daughter’s boyfriend didn’t respond to the comment, and the girls’ friends chimed in with laughing emojis and comments like, “I know, right?”
I was livid and wanted to message the girl and set her straight. There wasn’t even a tiny part of me that thought, Don’t do it, don’t interact with a teenage girl, you will make it worse.
Not when my ex was standing over me telling me he didn’t think it was a good idea, and we should let the school handle it. Not when I thought about it for another 2 seconds while my fingers typed wildly. And especially not when I let myself think about how many other people she was taking the opportunity to tear apart through her phone.
For the record, I was absolutely going to involve the school, but they have other things to worry about and I wasn’t about to sit around and wait for the situation to be rectified by someone else — that’s not how I operate. All I could think was, You don’t call my daughter a hoe and walk away with pats on the back. Period.
So I sent the girl this message: You should rethink what you’re putting out there on Instagram. I’m sure you are above calling other young women a hoe (like my daughter), you should act like it.
The backlash was nasty; I got several messages that day (that I didn’t interact with) telling me I was ugly and needed a nose job. These messages weren’t only from this girl, but her friends who joined in on the fun too. These are teenagers who are messaging an adult nasty things about the way she looks with zero remorse. If they’ll say these things to adult, what are they saying to each other?
The boyfriend deleted the comment soon after (which was just in time because he was about to get a message from me to delete that shit), and it turns out my daughter doesn’t even know the girl who wrote the comment about her being a “hoe.”
But she does know that girl’s best friend, who has been harassing my daughter for three years in school, which I didn’t know about either. And because my daughter has blocked her on social media and refuses to interact with her, she apparently called in her friend to do some dirty work for her.
The school took care of it beautifully. They had a meeting with my daughter to make sure she was okay and while they couldn’t tell me how they handled the other girls involved, my daughter said the situation has completely stopped since her father and I got involved.
If my ex hadn’t been checking up on our daughter’s social media, we never would have know this was going on and who knows what would have happened.
This is what our kids are dealing with every single day. Hiding behind a screen can bring out the meanness in anyone if they are triggered or hurting or feeling brave. Our kids have no idea how their words are affecting each other until they get smacked with them themselves.
If you notice your child having mood swings, hiding their phone from you, becoming anxious or depressed, or avoiding social situations, these are all signs they could be experiencing cyberbullying.
It’s important to let our kids know we take bullying of any kind seriously. Stop Bullying recommends parents get involved immediately if they noticed changes in their kids’ behavior by asking questions, checking their social media, taking screenshots, and alerting the school and other parents.
We watch what they eat, make sure they are wearing clean underwear, check their homework and make them pick their dirty socks off the floor. We can’t oversee everything else our kids do and not peek at their phones to see what they are really doing. We just can’t.
I have no problem admitting my children aren’t perfect and if they are ever accused of something, I’ll never be that mom who says, “Not my kid” before I investigate.
I have no doubt this situation has hardened my daughter and given her leverage to think perhaps she can indulge in taking someone down for the fuck of it.
But I’ll be damned if I am going to turn a blind eye to it and hope for the best. We don’t do that when they come to us with a scraped knee, but too many parents do it when it comes to what their kids are doing online.
And I sincerely hope if another adult finds out about any nastiness, bullying, or inappropriate shit my kids may be doing before I do, they send me a message letting me know and/or alert the school.