My daughter has just turned 14 and is entering high school as a freshman this year. In response to the pandemic, her school has decided to shift classes online. While the COVID-19 crisis is awful, I can’t help but admit I was a bit relieved that she wouldn’t be going to school in person. She has had a history being bullied by others in her classes, and the thought of her entering high school as a vulnerable freshman worried me to my core. I thought we were out of the woods, but apparently not.
We share a desktop computer in our household that she uses for her schoolwork. When I logged on to check my email after her classes, I realized she had forgotten to sign out of her Facebook account. Her inbox was filled with hateful, nasty messages calling her names I’ve never even heard of and accusing her of acts I am certain she has never committed. The comments made me sick to my stomach.
I’m incredibly upset that she doesn’t trust me enough to come to me with these problems. I feel so helpless trying to navigate in this digital world. How do I help her?
Dear Concerned Mom,
Your concerns are warranted. Thankfully there are steps you can take to help your daughter. Right now is a scary time for teens heading back to school, and adding bullying on top of pandemic stress can take a serious toll on their mental well-being. Also, it is important to know that you and your daughter are not alone. A 2019 study revealed that out of 4,972 students between the ages of 12 and 17, 36.5% of the students have been cyberbullied in their lifetimes. A more recent poll of 200,000 students showed that 70% of teens had someone spread rumors about them online. It’s proven that girls are significantly more often the victims of cyberbullying than boys.
It is important to keep an open line of communication within your family. Talk to your daughter about what you found and encourage her to express her feelings about what happened. Unfortunately, victims of cyberbullying often blame themselves—which could be the reason she’s hesitant to tell anyone.
Make sure she knows it’s not her fault. Try not to let your emotions control the conversation. It’s understandable to be angry, but showing extreme emotion will not improve the situation.
While it’s best to encourage your daughter to ignore the comments and forget what people say, if the issue persists, and is impacting her life negatively, there are more steps you can take. Be sure to gather all evidence of cyberbullying. This includes screenshots, text messages, pictures, anything to prove your case to take to the school authorities. Each state has differing anti-bullying laws in place for this exact reason, so keep a record of the infractions.
The most important thing is to let your daughter know she is loved and supported. Licensed clinicians in our Counseling & Wellness Centers are here to help anyone that might have experienced or is experiencing bullying. If you feel that your child or adolescent may need to talk to someone, call 844-4-ACENDA (844-422-3632 x9500) to request an appointment.