I am waiting on a phone call from my daughter’s school principal today.
It’s not exactly what you might think based on my previous post, though I suppose sort of related. Yes, it has to do with her social interactions. Yes, she made a few missteps. But this time, the crux of the wrong in the situation lays squarely on someone else’s shoulders.
Let me backtrack a bit.
My daughter, in her quest to be in with all of her like minded peers, has been begging me for an Instagram account for months. For those who don’t know, Instagram is a photo sharing app you can install on a smart phone or an iPod touch/iPad. You can link up with others who are sharing photos and you see their photos in your Feed. There are buttons to “like” someone’s posted photos, and there is a small box to make a comment.
My daughter joined and immediately began seeking out her peers. Within days she had dozens of people both seeing her photos and sharing theirs with her. It was through this medium that we actually found out that my daughter had missed some social events; photos were posted. I counseled her that all of this was part and parcel of the site; if she wanted to play the game, she had to be prepared that sometimes she might not like what she saw.
Like everywhere, in both real life and the Internet, there are Mean Girls. Girls who accept your follow request, but then proceed to complain every time you attempt to interact with them. One such girl is connected to my daughter. My daughter commented “Looks like fun” on one of this girls’ photos and was told, “Jesus Christ, you have no friends, stop commenting on my photos.”
Not exactly sure why she’s mad my girl is doing that, when she chooses to be linked to her, but I advised her to stay away from this girl and her photos and unfollow her.
Which she did.
But a few days later, she saw through her Feed that while she had stopped communicating with this girl, another friend of hers was having a hard time with this girl (let’s call her MG for Mean Girl). Lots of swearing, lots of name calling, and it came down to a real, bonafide threat: “I will beat the shit out of you.”
Which is when my daughter decided to step in and call a spade a spade. She told MG she was being a bully and to stop with all of the namecalling, that the third girl (let’s call her OG for Other Girl) had just made a simple comment that was being taken way, way too seriously.
Most girls would probably be upset to think someone thought of them as a bully, but not MG. She then lashed out at my daughter and OG, telling them both that they were ruining her summer, that she would have her mother. But the worst of it was a real threat: “I will fucking kill you.”
See below for the entire text. My daughter and OG’s comments have been deleted by themselves, but they were nothing more than simple commentaries on the image (a caricature done of MG at Busch Gardens) and then the subsequent anger that ensued.
I read all of this on my daughter’s iPod on the night of July 4, with my stomach in my throat.
My husband thought I was overreacting when I told him I thought we should call the police. “Kids never mean stuff like this,” he admonished me.
Except sometimes they do. Do I know what this twelve year old girl has going around in her head, besides a whole lot of cursing? No, I don’t.
“You don’t want to make it worse for her at school,” he told me.
So we agreed to sleep on it, and in the morning I sent the screen shot to six of my close girlfriends, all of whom have girls this age, some of whom have Instagram accounts. I asked for advice. What should I do. Where should I start.
The answers were all pretty much the same.
First, talk to my girl, which I did. Tell her to come to me at once when she sees threats of physical harm to anyone on an internet site. While what she wanted to do was noble, stop a bully, she ended up putting herself in harm’s way.
Two: don’t delete her account (although opinions were mixed on this count). She needs to learn how to use social media going forward in her life. I can’t punish her for this by taking away this social tool that she really loves. But I can teach her how to navigate it so that she won’t get herself in trouble with it.
Three: Don’t call the parents directly. With language and actions such as this, you have to wonder what goes on in the house. It could take a bad situation and turn it into a worse one.
Four: Call the school, even though school is out. Many schools have rules now that any time there is cyber bullying, even if it is off of school grounds, the school will act.
Five: Call the police. Not the regular 911, but the special Youth Division, which has a liaison officer to the school that handles this stuff specifically.
While I was typing this post, the principal called. He offered to call the Youth Division for me, since he already has a relationship with the officer assigned to the school. They will investigate the situation and contact the family. He said that 60% or so of the time, parents are shocked to find out about something like this and will intervene and that will be the end of it.
What about the other 40 %? I am not really sure. My goal here isn’t to get someone in trouble, but just to make sure that there isn’t real danger to my daughter or OG. But in addition, it is to hopefully help a girl who may be veering out of control and get her back on a productive path.
What I know for sure is that a great many parents of the kids who are on this Instagram have no idea what their children are up to. They are posting photos, some of them inappropriate and suggestive, and they are talking like kids do when they are not supervised. Except the internet makes them bolder, less afraid than these young adults already are. It’s a ticking time bomb.
We’ll see what happens.
Filed under: 2010s, computers, daughter, girlfriends, internet, middle school | 1 Comment »