Anne-Marie Schmidt posted a screen shot on her Facebook page of the girl’s Instagram post. The post incites other grade sixes to call Ms Schmidt’s daughter Mackenzie a “b*tch”.
In what can only be described as hideous bullying, one of Mackenzie’s “friends” posted the following on her Instagram account:
“Question – does anyone like Mackenzie? She’s being a b*tch to me, check my photo of all my friends… She commented on it. I HATE HER AND I DONT CARE IF ANYONE TELLS HER!!! HeHe” A number of other children – some of whom are mutual friends of the pair – replied and agreed. One even posted: “She is a b*tch alright”.
The question needs to be posed, regardless of the details – if this was real life, would this girl have the front to put this question to an actual audience? Would then, Ms Schmidt be validated in putting her reply up for public scrutiny?
“Too many parents wouldn’t even know what accounts their kids have got and what they post online,” Ms Schmidt said. She said there had been other similar issues in the past involving the same girl and her daughter.
Ms Schmidt said Mackenzie was “in tears and inconsolable” when she was first alerted of the post by another friend. “She was absolutely devastated. She is a very vulnerable 12-year-old,” she said.
There doesn’t appear to be an age limit for the Instagram platform, although Facebook has an age requirement of 13. Instagram however is gaining in popularity and significance among the “tween” set.
Yet, was shining a bright light upon her daughter’s cyber bully the right thing to do? Psychologist Michael Carr-Greg says no. In fact, it was totally against the recommendations of the National Centre Against Bullying.
“This is fraught with danger. You are responding to the bully, and that is not the right thing to do,” the psychologist said. “It’s like feeding the trolls, and all that happens is that they step it up a notch.”
In fact, Carr-Gregg encourages parents to contact web administrators and ask for offensive content to be removed and to simply ignore the bully by making sure the bully’s contacts are blocked on all social media devices.
Yet in 2010, the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, urged parents to take matters into their own hands if they weren’t satisfied with how schools were handling bullying cases, going so far as to say that “Parents needed to take a greater responsibility”.
With these mixed messages, is it any wonder that parents aren’t exactly sure how to deal with cyber bullying?
“Ms Schmidt said she would not get involved if her daughter was bullied in the school grounds, but felt justified in taking direct action against cyber bullying.
“At school you might take a step back but this is cyberspace and my daughter is under 16. There is an onus on parents to take responsibility and take control,” she said.
Here are some steps you can take to prevent your child from being involved on cyber-bullying:
Be Safe. Talk about how to safely browse the web, starting at a very young age—even as early as kindergarten. The more you emphasise potential dangers, the more likely your child will be to steer clear of inappropriate behaviour.
Keep it public. Keep your computer in an open and relatively public area of your home, such as a family lounge room. If your teenager knows you’ll be able to see everything on the screen, bullying behaviour will be much less likely. Also, familiarise yourself with the online “lingo” YOLO.
Set limits. Pick a length of time that your teen has to play online—and stick to it. If you have an older child, have a discussion about what you both consider to be a “fair” amount of Internet time.
Discourage retaliation. Once something’s said online, it can never be taken back—even years later. Make sure that your teen is treating their peers with respect on and offline. If your child feels slighted by a classmate, gently suggest that your teen confront the alleged “wrong-doer” face-to-face.
Keep the lines of communication open. Talk to your child often and honestly. Kids who have an open and trusting relationship with their parents, and feel safe to talk to them, are less likely to take part in cyberbullying—and are more likely to go to their parents if there’s an incident online.
What do you think? Did this mother go too far? Or was she justified in outing this cyberbully?