This is going to be a long post, but it’s important. Why? Because bullying is big news right now, both in my community and in the world today. Don’t believe me?
- A local school district is dealing with a bullying incident involving a reference to the Newtown shooter and Instagram.
- A school shooting in California seems to have been triggered by bullying.
- Just last week, a little ten-year-old girl committed suicide because of bullying.
- A local mom/blogger I follow had to take her daughter’s case of bullying to the local news.
- A friend of my daughter’s is the victim of an on-going bullying campaign by a classmate.
- Even my own daughter, who is successful, well-liked, and self-confident, and actually is not your normal victim-type, was the target of someone creating a porn account in her name.
Believe me, there is nothing like dealing with a situation like that head-on and in real life to learn all the ins and outs real quick. But, I’m going to share it with you – with her permission – so you can be aware and proactive.
Bullying is everywhere. And this is my daughter’s story.
First off, let me say, we are all good here. We are all fine. I’ve been toying with this post for awhile. I couldn’t decide whether or not to run with it because the situation is pretty much resolved and my daughter did a great job handling it. However, we have decided to share it for two reasons:
1) To warn other parents that this can happen to their child. I would have never believed it had I not experienced it and
2) Because it has inspired me to continue on with a series called “A Frank Discussion About Bullying” that’s not just directed at parents of victims, but also at parents of possible bullies, as well. And if you have little ones, you might still want to pay attention, since they will be school-aged sooner rather than later.
OK, then…To refresh your memory, this is The Girl Child. She’s thirteen and in the eighth grade.
You have all heard me talk about my daughter. I sometimes call her GC here for short (and she is short – ha ha!). Girl Child is not who you would picture to be your typical cyber-bullying target. She’s President of her Student Council, a Girl Scout, and a 2nd Chair clarinet in Symphonic Band. She’s pretty, very self-confident, friendly, and has a large circle of friends. She is very active, socially. She has social clout, in other words. She’s not afraid to stand up to bullies in her school and doesn’t hesitate to stand up for herself, as well. I know this because I’ve heard it from teachers, her friends, their parents, and I’ve seen it for myself.
Not the girl who you think would be targeted. But she was. Just in a different way. Maybe because she is well-liked and strong. Here’s the story:
Two days before Christmas, Girl Child received a frantic text message from one of her friends. This friend used an iPhone app called GifBoom, which uses a series of pictures to create and post animated .gifs. She had run across an account that had two pictures of my daughter, making it look like the account belonged to her. Neither picture was remotely inappropriate. One was a default profile picture my daughter used on Facebook, which are always public. The other was of Girl Child after the other friend has finished straightening her hair. Girls fixing each others’ hair and taking pictures of the results. I saw the pictures. They were fine – cute, even.
Here is a screenshot showing both of the pictures. The small default picture was taken of Girl Child at the Mall and was a default picture on Facebook. The other picture was the one taken by her friend on her cellphone.
But, someone had used those two pictures to create an account on GifBoom and make it a porn account. Those pictures seem to have been set up to imply that the woman in the porn pictures that followed was my daughter. (I will not be sharing those screenshots, of course.) That account had been up for 94 days – 94 days! – by the time a friend brought it to Girl Child’s attention!
Girl Child was initially hysterical. She’s mature and advanced in a lot of areas, but sex isn’t one of them. She was so upset, her older brother (Little Brother, who is eighteen) came in to find out what was wrong.
Little Brother spent the next four hours tracing other accounts that were connected to this fake account. Now, Little Brother is very active on many social media platforms and knows the ins and outs of them like a pro. Luckily, as it turns out, that larger picture had never been posted on any social media (well, before now LOL). And that’s how we could trace it back to some real life people who were either aware of the account, had created it, or maybe knew who had.
He messaged everyone involved. He took a ton of screenshots of every aspect of that account – all the pictures posted, who liked each picture, who followed the account, and who the account followed. He had three computers and two phones set up in front of him to track this all down.
Meanwhile, I calmed Girl Child down and we delved into who would do this and why. We sent out messages to my in-laws, as Girl Child’s uncle is a police officer and we made plans to meet up with him the next day.
By the next morning, my son – who was monitoring that fake account and the messages he had sent out to parties involved – logged on to find that the account had been wiped clean of any trace of porn or my daughter. One of the people he had messaged either wiped the account or gave a heads’ up to the real owner, who, in turn, wiped it. There is no other logical explanation. My brother-in-law, the cop, gave us advice on how to proceed and what our options would be if we needed to pursue legal avenues.
We decided our next step was to meet with the parents of the others involved. Not particularly comfortable, but at least the parents didn’t dismiss the situation out-of-hand, particularly when we showed them all the screenshots of the account and its followers. No one came forward with the culprit, but everyone was supportive of Girl Child. We decided not pursue legal options at that point, because we didn’t want some other thirteen year old to end up with a record because of one really bad choice. The account was wiped. Someone had gotten the message.
After the Christmas break, we went with the screenshots printed to explain the situation to the principal at Girl Child’s school. I will say, I was not particularly satisfied with level of action we got there. The school resource officer was not called in and the principal simply noted that it it didn’t happen on school property or on a school computer. I told him to make sure the incident was put into Girl Child’s official file, along with all the identifying screenshots. He is well aware that if there is another incident, I will be going over his head to the district.
School has gone on and all seems well. The very few friends who even know about the incident have been very supportive. The person who created the account has never ‘fessed up, but those involved peripherally have all actually tried to be remain friendly with the Girl Child. She still loves school and remains as active and as busy as ever.
But, why did this happen? Obviously, Girl Child was never supposed to know of the account, so it wasn’t traditional bullying. If her one friend hadn’t discovered it, she would have never known. Girl Child follows all the online safety rules (she has even led an online safety course at one of her Girl Scout meetings). None of her accounts had been hacked and she has never bullied anyone online herself.
So, was it jealousy? Maybe. Was it a fantasy for some oversexed teenager? Maybe. I doubt we’ll ever know for sure.
What I do know is that all the parents involved are now fully aware of what their kids are doing with their technology, what kind of accounts they are following, and that they even have accounts at all. And the school, for all their inaction, have also been put on alert that they will not be my first stop if this happens again. I have to be satisfied with that at this point.
The moral of this story for parents is this: BE AWARE OF WHAT YOUR CHILD IS DOING ON THEIR PHONES, iTOUCHES, AND COMPUTERS. Not just because your child could end up being the target, but also to be sure that they are not involved in inappropriate activities themselves.
Look at their portable devices and see what apps they are using. Ask questions. Check their Facebook accounts and computers. Watch their Twitter. Know who their friends are and what goes on when they get together. Ask questions. As long as they are your children, both their actions and their well-being are YOUR responsibility. Ask questions.
Don’t just assume that everything is OK until someone like me shows up on your doorstep. Because, believe me, that’s never going to be pretty.
Please tune in for the rest of the series, because we are going to take a look at bullying in short, easy-to-digest posts (which, admittedly, this post is not LOL). We’ll define:
- Tuesday: What constitutes Bullying?
- Wednesday: Who is a Bully?
- Thursday: Who is a Victim?
- Friday: The impact on our communities and what Parents can do
(I’ll be adding hot links to this post as the other articles are published).
Have you or your child ever had to deal with bullying or cyber-bullying? How did you handle it?
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18 thoughts on “Cyber-Bullying Hits Home”
Thank you for sharing this Kristy and as a former middle school teacher, unfortunately this kind of cyber bullying is more than norm nowadays. Truly doesn't make it right at all, but it is just sad what is becoming of our society. As a parent of two little girls, I was sitting her very much disgusted for what your daughter had to endure from this and can tell if that was my kids school, I would have gone above the principal and raised hell, mainly because having taught I know that in order to get anywhere you have to be loud to get heard unfortunately. I feel terrible for your daughter and again thank you for sharing this. Your message is spot on and seriously something does have to be done to raise more awareness on this.
I am so sorry your daughter fell victim to bullying. I am glad to hear it has been dealt with swiftly and correctly and applaud you and your family for taking action.
Again, I am dismayed at how the schools deal (rather, do not deal) with bullying incidents!
I will be following your bully series for sure.
I am so sorry this happened to your daughter and to all those other children. IT IS TERRIBLE. As a parent you do have to monitor and ask questions- I dont care about privacy- they can have privacy when they grow up and move out.
Wonderful post- hope you share it on ALL the linky's and blog hops. People need to be aware.
I know it was hard to put all that out there, but maybe you helped someone.
Incredible post. I'm so sorry that that happened to your daughter! I also have to commend you on how you handled this – very professional and I'll definitely share and even reference this site should I need to ever figure out what to do in a cyber-bullying situation.
I am so sorry this happened to your daughter and I'm glad that you found the page and were able to resolve the situation. I worry about this kind of thing now that my oldest is in middle school, and I hope that if I ever need to deal with this, I will handle it as well as you did.
Sorry Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop this week; I hope you’ll join us again!
Kathy Shea Mormino
The Chicken Chick
you had to experience this,
That is horrible what has happened!
Sorry for your daughter -but glad she is fine.
I have been a victim of cyber bullying / stalking too, continued for ages, I was about to court it but it ended when I succeed to humiliate the offender on public 😉
Thank you for sharing your story. I think it is important for parents to understand all the many ways their kids can be bullied online! I'm glad the account with your daughter's photos was erased. I'm not at all surprised that you weren't satisfied with the school's response to the situation. When our daughter had a problem with a bully (and she is also not the typical weaker/ vulnerable kid), the principal was not at all helpful. In fact, he made it very easy to pull my daughter out of his school! Anyway, I'm looking forward to the rest of your series. 🙂
Wow, what an ordeal for your daughter and all of you! This is such an important topic and I think it's great you are blogging about it. I have 3 kids, 2 of whom are teenagers and I worry about this stuff all the time. It's scary that no matter how much we try to protect our kids and teach them about this type of bullying, that they can still fall victim to it.
Thank you for sharing. Glad she is fine.
My daughter had a cyberbullying experience and it was an ordeal also. The school did zero until it was forced to and it was interesting to say the least.
Wow, this is crazy. I can't believe how much times have changed in so few years. I'm only 27, and cyber bullying didn't even exist when I was in school. I feel badly for kids who are facing it today. Every move they make and more imporantly "mistake" is watched by the world. Love to your daughter, she handled this like a pro.
I am so sorry your daughter and your family experienced this! This is unacceptable! I'm glad that people who experience these things though are sharing them with us. Awareness is a key!
Great post, Kristy! Thank you for bringing this situation to light so other parents, such as myself, can be aware! Awareness is key!
Two of my children have been bullied, but no cyber bullying yet. Note I say YET. My son has autism and he has had two severe instances of bullying which caused suspensions and expulsions… and these are elementary school kids. Anyway – it is very real for so many kids both with social klout and not.
I insisted the incidents were noted in my son's file and the school and the school district itself gave me a bad time for wanting it in there. I am still shaking my head over the first incident and it was nearly five years ago.
I hopped over from facebook and the blog hop. Had to check out your bullying posts.
This is the reason why my 17 yr old does not have a smart phone or computer. She uses our computer if we are in the room and she only has facebook and never goes on it. We also don't allow the school to use her picture or any other media for any reason. Too many options for sick people these days.
Wow! That is certainly a very eye opening story. Quite scary at that. So sorry this happened to you, but so thankful that you are sharing so others are aware of what is happening out there.
I'm so glad she came out relatively unscathed! It makes me glad that social media didn't exist when I was in school!
Thank you for your brave and informative words! I will be passing this along to all of my kids for their kids! Wonderful post!
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