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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