Quit trying to be your children’s best friend and be their parent.
That was the plea issued by Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk County, Florida.
The wise Sheriff issued the remark following the suicide of 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick, who jumped to her death after being cyber bullied by her former best friend an another 14-year-old.
To his credit, Sheriff Polk took action where parents failed too. He arrested the two teens whose online tauntings encouraged – no, wait, told her — to go kill herself.
The Sheriffs department had been conducting an investigation into the year-long bullying when the older of the teens took to her FB page and admitted that she had bullied Rebecca until she killed herself and you know what? I don’t care, she said.
Lord God of all that is good and merciful, look at the hell we have unleashed on our ownselves and our children.
Rebecca’s mama tried to protect her daughter. She pulled her out of school. Tried homeschooling. Enrolled her in another school. There was a time when such tactics would work, would at least help. But cyber bullying has no fence. It pays homage to no mascots. It is like Agent Orange. Once spread, it seeps into the groundwater and into the homes of everyone within its community and beyond.
The teens doing the bullying refused to back off. Even after young Rebecca plunged to her death at an abandoned silo.
Why in the name of all that is decent in earth did the parents continue to let their daughters have cell phones? asked the frustrated Sheriff.
“I’m aggravated that the parents are not doing what parents should do: after she is questioned and involved in this, why does she even have a device?” Sheriff Judd said. “Parents, who instead of taking that device and smashing it into a thousand pieces in front of that child, say her account was hacked.”
Makes you long for the gun-toting daddy who shot his daughter’s laptop to smithereens, don’t it?
Most of the people I know are good parents. They love their children enough to draw boundaries. Those boundaries are a child’s source of security a therapist once told me. Remove the boundaries and a child begins to flail about like a shark on a sidewalk. Or worse, like ten-year old behind the wheel of a car, running over everything in her path.
Here’s a little known truth — children, even teens, want parents to care enough to set boundaries.
One woman’s child is dead and two other women’s children are doomed to suffer because of the part they played in that death.
All because the parents refuse to parent.
Instead they defended their children. Claimed to know nothing about such behavior. Their child’s computer must have been hacked.
I was bullied in seventh-grade by a girl two years older. She was mean as a wasp-bit snake. She would sneer at me and taunt me every time she got on the bus. I moved closer to the bus driver, hoping that would help. (I didn’t know at the time that he would later be arrested for taking this same girl to a hotel room, plying her with drink and drugs, and then raping her. All too often we seek safe shelter with the wrong people.) It didn’t help. He only laughed at her taunts.
For weeks she told anyone that would listen that she was going to kick my ass.
She told me, too.
I said nothing.
I told no one.
Not my mother. Not my brother. No one.
I didn’t worry too much about it because she didn’t live in my neighborhood and our paths at school didn’t cross much. Just on that school bus.
But then one day she came home with one of my girlfriend’s sisters. Rode that school bus to my neighborhood. Got off at my bus stop. Followed me to the corner lot where our trailer house sat and then she began what she’d been threatening to do.
There was a lot of hairpulling. Choking. Slapping. Tumbling over the dirt and gravel road.
We were surrounded by other teens, all jeering and cheering.
I am not sure how long the fight actually lasted but I can tell you nobody came out to stop it. Not one adult. I think we eventually stopped when the older teen felt she had done what she came to do — kick my ass.
I gathered my scattered books and went home, crying. I took a shower and washed the grit and grime and anger off me.
But I never, not once, told my mother about the fight. She had enough to deal with. What good would it have done?
Kids keep a lot of things bottled up. There’s a lot they don’t tell their parents. And not just because they’ve done something bad, either. There were a lot of things I didn’t tell my mother because I was trying to protect her. I didn’t want her to worry. She always had more than she could deal with. I think all three of us kids felt like we were our mother’s protector.
My mother once told me, in a drunken stupor, that it was hard to know which of us was the parent sometime, me or her.
I was 14.
It’s obvious these days that too many parents are abdicating their role as supervisor and letting children raise themselves. Consider these statistics on cyber bullying:
- Around half of teens have been the victims of cyber bullying
- Only 1 in 10 teens tells a parent if they have been a cyber bully victim
- Fewer than 1 in 5 cyber bullying incidents are reported to law enforcement
- 1 in 10 adolescents or teens have had embarrassing or damaging pictures taken of themselves without their permission, often using cell phone cameras
- About 1 in 5 teens have posted or sent sexually suggestive or nude pictures of themselves to others
- Girls are somewhat more likely than boys to be involved in cyber bullying
What would you do if you found out your child had been the victim of bullying? What if you found out your child was bullying?