Cyber-bullying… When Do Adults Step In?

My cousin’s 18 year old daughter is a really good kid.  She handles herself well, and even as a young kid (when I first met her) she was considerate and sweet.  Even now she sometimes stays with my 98 year old grandmother, to make sure she’s safe at home. While she’s no longer a minor, she’s still in high school and has high school friends.  Yesterday and into this morning, my convictions were tested when one of these FaceBook friends got nasty.  My cousin’s daughter was essentially called arrogant (‘you decided you were better than me’) and this online terrorist kept replying to comments (sometimes to only her own) as my cousin’s daughter was incredibly mature and didn’t feed into the ‘mean girl’s’ taunts.  I posted how proud I was of her.

While the mean girl wasn’t over the top in how she was being mean, it was still mean (and frankly wreaked of immaturity and jealousy) and was on the border of being ‘bullying’.  I posted a link about cyber-bullying, which sent the mean girl into a minor tirade.  I don’t know this kid  (thankfully), but the verbal nastiness was directed at a high school ‘kid’.  As an adult, knowing about the situation, I felt a responsibility to ‘do’ something.  How often are there kids on the news who end up tormented by these online brats, and nobody does anything until the target is so despondent that they withdraw from life (at best; at worst, they take their own lives).  I don’t have any reason to believe that my cousin’s daughter is mentally unstable at all. She’s an active, socially popular high school senior.  She had posted how she was enjoying the beginning of her senior year when the mean girl butted in.

So, where do adults come in with this type of situation?  I certainly didn’t want to make anything worse, but at the same time felt a responsibility to say something to her dad (via a FaceBook message) simply to make him aware (and let him know how proud I was of her handling of the situation).  I also let the brat know that I was older than my cousin (the mother of who she was demeaning), and was going to take this to an adult level. This was after being told I should mind my own business ( I think she thought I was a teenager).

Was this the right thing to do?  If I had a high school aged kid, I’d want to know if one of their ‘friends’ was being nasty to them, even if only to put that person into the proper frame of reference, and nothing else.  IF there had been a concern about anyone’s safety, it’s a no-brainer, but it wasn’t to that point.   I’m sure my cousin’s daughter is a balanced young woman, but she’s also being targeted.  I get protective. I’ve worked with kids who have been bullied (often by parents in the setting I worked), and it does cause them pain.

Kids don’t realize that they are taken seriously when they start being nasty- for some, it’s no big deal (the mean girl had no clue how referring to someone as ‘arrogant’ was demeaning). It’s no joke anymore.  If I hadn’t said something, and say the mean girl started getting more menacing, I’d feel horrible.  I knew about it before it got ‘bad’.

To my cousin’s daughter (if she reads this):  You are a class act young woman, and handled yourself beautifully.  I’m sorry that the ‘mean girl’ publicly referred to you as ‘deciding you were better than her’.  Your side of the situation makes perfect sense, about going in different directions and not having classes together. In high school things change  a lot.  In 20 years, this mean girl will probably be only a blip on your memory.  “Best friends” don’t treat each other like she’s treating you- whether you’re no longer friends or not, and your level of maturity is impressive.  I’m proud to call you family.

And nobody knows who I am on the blog- so you’re still ‘safe’ 🙂

EDIT:  Now the bully posted a threat (to myself and another friend of my cousin’s daughter); reported threat to FaceBook. Even knowing I’m an adult, she told me to put the cyber-bullying stuff  “up your ass”, and used the word ‘threat’. Nice. She moved herself from a Dr. Phil status to Jerry Springer.  She’s now the ‘victim’ for being called out on bullying.  Sad, miserable kid.  I’m so glad she’s not mine.