My daughter is being bullied on Facebook, what can I do?

Michael Richard, MD
Michael Rich, MD, MPH

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Media expert Michael Rich, MD, MPH, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston, answers your questions about media use.

Last week he answered your questions about the effects of violent video games on kids with central auditory processing disorders.

Here’s this week’s question:

Q: My daughter is 14 and has been bullied every day for over the past year. She has now been bullied by lots of girls and boys from her school on Facebook. She has gone through this for too long now, and all the school will do is suspend these kids for a week—then they come back and it will start again. Can I keep her home from school and give her some kind of home tutoring?
-Kazy, from JustAsk on Education.com

A: Dear Kazy,

You can certainly keep your child home. It is the school’s job to educate and socialize your child in a safe, healthy, nurturing environment. It seems that you have made your concerns known to the school leadership and that they have responded as schools often do—by punishing the bullies, but not creating a long-term solution.  Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t change the culture of the school, which means that these situations will continue to develop. You can support your daughter and encourage such change within the school by taking the following steps:

1. Address the immediate problem by connecting with your daughter’s natural advocates. Her doctor, teacher, guidance counselor, school nurse, and coach are all mandated reporters of child abuse or neglect, which means that they must report even suspicion that she is in danger of abuse (by the kids) or neglect (by the school). Such reports are confidential, and they do not need to name possible perpetrators or locations—those are for the social services department to investigate.

2. Enlist even unlikely-seeming allies in creating a safer, happier, healthier school environment. A culture that allows bullying to occur is a problem for the whole community to address. Therefore, reach out to–and band together with–all kinds of parents, especially parents of one or more of the alleged bullies. They don’t want their children to be in trouble any more than you want your children to be victimized, and few parents want their kids to be subject in any way to a bullying culture. Think of how powerful it would be to have parents stand together to say, “We don’t want our children to be bullies, victims, or bystanders—we don’t want bullying in the lives of our children any more!”

3. Engage your local press. Bullying is international news right now, so your regional newspapers, radio, and TV outlets will be interested in a local connection to this epidemic.

4. Use electronic media to make your concerns known to the wider public.Although it might be helpful for your daughter to at least temporarily close her Facebook account and report the cyberbullying to Facebook (which does not want their service used for that purpose), there are ways of using media to improve her situation. For example, you could create, or join, an anti-bullying parent group on Facebook. Or with the help of a trusted adult, your daughter could even create such a group for others her age. Taking leadership in this way can be wonderfully empowering, and that goes a long way toward reducing victimization.

Finally, you and your daughter could join with like-minded parents around the world who have become fans of the Center on Media and Child Health Facebook page where they get regular information and strategies for raising healthy, safe, and successful kids in the Media Age. There you can report how your efforts do, thus sharing what you’ve learned with other communities as well.

Enjoy your media and use them wisely,
The Mediatrician®

Bullying in school is a serious concern, and has been gaining a lot of national media attention recently. To learn more about this growing concern and adults may not recognize that bullying is taking place, please read Claire McCarthy’s recent  Thrive article on the subject.

  • http://www.totalbullysolution.com Bullying Help

    All very good suggestions. Facebook is now really cracking down on users who harass others. And in this case, since the bullying is going on outside of school, it might be advisable to contact the other parents if they can be identified.

  • Chris

    We had a bullying problem also. It was also coupled with a lack of teaching and class room control with the public school.

    My saving grace is k12.com My daughter is attending CAVA – California Virtual Academy. Basically it is online school from home and it is wonderful. Great teachers, super organized (and I am not always and this was my concern), exciting material keeps her engaged. They go at her pace and I am her coach, although I have yet to do much coaching. Since there is no traditional classroom/buliding costs they are able to spend more on the children and education. We received shipment with all of her books and mine, science euipment, art supplies. iSince it is a public Charter school they can also lend you a computer for the year and help pay for your internet connection if you need help. THIS is what educating our children should be…. I only wish I had enrolled her years ago.

    http://www.k12.com You can check out sample classes

  • http://www.school-climate-consulting.org Guest

    This is great information. I would, however, like to address the statement Dr. Rich made regarding the school’s response, “they have responded as schools often do—by punishing the bullies, but not creating a long-term solution. Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t change the culture of the school, which means that these situations will continue to develop”.

    Fortunately, most states have now developed stronger anti-bullying laws, and requiring schools to adopt anti-bullying policies, which often include cyberbullying. This is a relatively new phenomonen, and I believe schools are searching for best-practice alongside parents and community members. Additionally, FaceBook recommends users are ages 16 and older. Many students under the age of 16 join (outside of school), against the age recommendation, and can lead to situations that although were created at home on-line, trickle into school social situations. The teachers are often left to figure out an on-line transaction that occured over the weekend, but then comes to a head during a school day. I think age appropriate on-line social networking can actually be a positive tool for students. It is a tool, though, that must be negotiated between parents and school leaders without pointing the blame at one or the other for lack of oversight. Both parents and educators have so much to learn in this area – and the best way to support our students is to learn together.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Quinn-Smith/100002910375001 Quinn Smith

    I’m also having the same problem with my first grade daughter who have been complaining about her classmates that bullied her. She even got home one day with her uniform colored with crayons at the back. One day with her school bag teared and she even complained that 3 boys drag her outside the classroom. I don’t want to tolerate this matter so I made a move on how I can better protect my daughter whenever she is being bullied. Last month,  I found an article by anationofmoms about a service that can protect your family via your cell phone. And, at the bottom there is an opportunity to enter a drawing for 6 months of that service just by liking them on Facebook. You might find it interesting: http://anationofmoms.com/2011/08/protect-your-family-giveaway.html