There is no more compelling reason for parents to “Parent Online”, and to know how their child is behaving online, than Rebecca Sedwick, a young twelve year old girl who jumped to her death on September 10th. Rebecca was relentlessly cyberbullied by as many as fifteen girls for over a year. One horrific cyberbullying remark to Rebecca was, “drink bleach and die.” Rebecca changed schools, her Facebook account was deleted but the cyberbullying followed her. That is one of the hallmarks that separated traditional play ground bullying from cyberbullying; there is no escape and it can be 24/7.
A parent of one of the suspects is in complete denial that his daughter could be a cyberbully saying, “My daughter’s a good girl, and I’m 100% sure that whatever they’re saying about my daughter is not true,” This same girl posted this on Facebook after Rebecca’s death: “Yes ik [I know] I bullied REBECCA and she killed her self but IDGAF ♥”
The “not my child syndrome” is all too prevalent in today’s world. That needs to change. Parents need to understand that a child’s online world requires parental involvement and oversight. Kids can behave very differently online than they do offline largely because of the anonymity that the digital world provides. There are also websites like ask.fm, formspring and others that allow for anonymous comments to be posted and have become cyberbullying havens.
The sheriff that arrested the two suspects says it best, “Watch what your children do online. Quit being there best friend and be their best parent.”
With computer privileges and cellphone use come responsibilities! Parents need to talk to their child about acceptable use and expectations of behavior. Then they need to check-in and make sure their child is adhering to those expectations. If not those devices need to be taken away until their child can use them in an appropriate way. Cellphones and computer devices are not benign gadgets. They are interactive tools and inappropriate interactions such as cyberbullying can be devastating, long lasting and deadly.