Cyberbullying: When Your Own Kid Is The Bad Guy (Part 1)

By Fiona Roberts - September 4th, 2018
Cyberbullying is probably one of the most serious threats kids face today. As a parent who discovered her own daughter to be a bully, I feel the duty to help other parents and young man and women. 

Here is my story.

What is Cyberbullying? 

I'll borrow the very clear definition given by Nonprofit Kidspower:

"Cyberbullying” or “electronic aggression” means deliberately using technology such as smartphones, the Internet, social media, or gaming environments to harass, humiliate, badmouth, or threaten someone. Like any form of bullying, cyberbullying can poison someone’s joy in life, reputation, and well being."
In other words, any hostile behavior perpetrated by an individual or a group towards someone. 

Typical examples of cyberbullying include posting rude or threatening comments, embarrassing or hurtful pictures and videos, exhortations to 'disappear' or self-harm, racial, ethnical, or religious discrimination, and so on. For a more exhaustive list, check out the bottom of this article.
Signs of Cyberbullying 

I'll be honest: I never thought of my 15-year-old daughter as a 'mean girl'. To this day, I don't. I just think she has been encouraged to behave like she did by a combination of social structures and lack of proper guidance from her parents. 

I started wondering if my Andrea was a bit of a bully one day in December, when I went to pick her up from soccer practice. She and her 'BFFS squad' were pointing at a girl I had never seen before, laughing loudly and openly. 

I started to observe her more closely. An odd pattern of phone-to-laptop seemed to emerge, as if she was texting someone and then run to her computer to do something else, with a wicked smile painted on her face. This would happen mostly in the evening, every day. 

I asked to show me her text messages and let me into her Facebook profile. She did eventually give me her phone, no doubt after a thorough clean up of any private text. Facebook was however impossible to get to. She changed her password and that was it. You can only imagine the domestic drama going on in my house back then. No threats would work. 

Harsh times call for harsh measures

Something was definitely going on. I started researching. 'How can I find out what's going on?' and 'Should I even intrude into her privacy this much?' were the questions going through my head. 

After a lot of googling, I found some answers. Background checking sites allow you to get information about email and phone number owners. That could have been useful to know who she was texting, but wouldn't help with deleted texts. Phone tracking softwares are available out there, but after reading some online reviews it turns out you need quite a lot of technical know-how to make them work. 

Then I found a service that combines background checks with easy-to-use device monitoring, Publicseek. They developed a bundle designed for parents of teenagers, which combines a license for mSpy, a top-of-the-range phone monitoring software, with unlimited background checks.

I went for it. In order to get the phone monitoring set up, you need physical access to your kid's phone. I admit I didn't play fair, I sneaked into Andrea's bedroom while she was asleep and got to her iPhone. However remember, it is your right (in the legal sense of the term) as a parent to monitor and restrict your child's phone as you see fit, so I didn't feel so bad. 

The setting up took a few minutes. I returned the phone and waited patiently. 

Surprise Surprise

Two days later I went back to check what the monitor had picked up. Hundreds of text messages in the BFF chat group, planning the slow and painful social destruction of 'the blob'. Yes, the new girl I saw at the training field had earned a flattering nickname. 

Among a host of horrible things they were doing to her, the destruction plan included taking pictures of her in the locker room and publishing them for the world to see. 

I couldn't take much more of it, I called my husband in tears. We started working on a strategy, but you'll need to wait for the next post to find out what happened next :) 

What to do now: Some Advice

As we often say, trust your guts. If you feel something is going on, it's probably true. YOU are the one who knows your kids best, and you are responsible for their actions. 

Using tools like Publicseek can help you in the toughest job you'll ever have: being a good parent. 

For more information on cyberbullying, check this out

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