Constant Vigilance

The news out of Polk County, Florida several months ago that a young girl, aged 12, committed suicide was horrifying. In the aftermath, there was a lot of talk about cyber bullying. Yesterday, two girls, ages 12 and 14 were arrested for their involvement in the bullying.
As a middle school teacher and a parent of teenagers, I have so many thoughts on this subject, but I will try to keep this short, simple, and as non-judgmental as possible.
Adults need to step up here. Period. Legally, two of these three girls should not have been on social media because they are not yet 13. I know it is hard to keep kids off of social media, but parents need to be vigilant about that. I had a lot of friends who let their kids on Facebook before they were 13. While I truly believe my kids could have handled having access to Facebook before 13, I reasoned that if I let them lie about their age to get a Facebook account, then I was telling them it was ok to lie. So, we waited. Both of my kids use Facebook, but I am their “friend” and I have their passwords. That’s the way it works for us.
Adults need to monitor their kids activities. They are kids. They are not mature enough to make decisions that could follow them forever. That is why we are their legal guardians and are held responsible for their well being. In monitoring my children’s social media, it gives me many openings for good conversations with my kids. We talk about good decisions, bad decisions, and even what is going on with their peers.
Adults must teach kids resiliency too. In the case of the victim here, according to our local news, she was handling her bullies the way I would tell my kids to handle bullies. She was ignoring and walking away.
Unfortunately, her bullies were persistent. The bully’s admission on Facebook that led to her arrest shows what a mean-spirited child she was. Adults who see such mean-spirited, evil behavior need to stand up and speak out. I’m glad that the Sherriff and District Attorney here are taking this case so seriously. Maybe in Florida we can finally get a big case right and set a path for justice for many victims of bullying.
In the meantime, talk to your kids. Show them these posts. Talk about how lonely and afraid the victim must have felt. If they have a social media account and are not 13, consider taking it down until they are. If they have social media, no matter how old they are, be vigilant about looking at their account and ask your friends to look there too. The life of any child is too precious to let it fall prey to irresponsible use of social media.

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