Monday, July 5, 2010

My Son Was Being Bullied on Facebook

I'm so upset. My 12 yr old woke me up last night, and told me he wanted me to delete his Facebook account. I allowed him to have an account - which I monitored like the dickens ... and for the most part he seemed to enjoy it. He had a small amount of friends and family - and all seemed to be well.

Until this weekend.

He wanted me to upload some videos of he and his friends skateboarding, so as I was uploading - I do what Mothers do - I looked at his FB page.

Now, I know I am sorta over-protective of my son, and no parent likes to think their kids are doing things that they don't approve of when they aren't around ... but I'm not naive either. I was a smart mouth 12 yr old way back when ... and I remember exactly the things I did and said ... and how "grown" I thought I was, LOL. I was bullied, and on occasions I'd had to defend myself physically. Back then (in the late 70's/early 80's), you weren't kicked out of school - you were suspended. the suspensions were also served at the school, not at home. So when I fought Rachel, the bully who'd tormented me all summer - I spent a week in suspension, in the Principals office!

But these days, bullying is insidious and its often violent, and all I could think of was the kids I'd read about who are bullied online, that hide it from their parents ... and they have taken their own lives. Is it a stretch? Probably - but that's directly where my mind went.

Normally I would not have acted, but this boy threatened my son on Facebook. He basically told him that when the new school term started ... frankly, there'd be hell to pay.

My first thought - what idiot carries a grudge all summer long, over a Facebook page?

Then I answered myself. A Bully.

I had a knot in my stomach, as I read my son's responses to this boy. He cursed at him, and to see the foul language on the page, that I know was written by my son was eye-opening to me. Like I said, I don't put my head in the sand, I know kids do things we don't like when we aren't around ... but this "felt" different to me. What I read on the page was my son "defending himself" as this little boy continued to "go after him with a certain viciousness.

I may have even let it stand, had I not noticed an open chat window that my son left open with one of his friends. In this chat window he expressed not the foul language he used on the page against the boy ... but fear. He told his friend that he was afraid, and that he now dreaded the first day of middle school, because this boy would be waiting for him. He said that the boy was bigger and meaner and he said the only thing he could do was remember all he was taught in karate for 5 years ... and fight.

I started to cry. I remember feeling like that. Here I am, 45 years old and I remember EXACTLY how that felt at 12 years old. Unadulterated fear.

I don't apologize for being a nosy parent. I called my son inside, and I told him that I wanted him to delete the foul language he'd posted on facebook. I told him that as much as I understood his anger and fear, that facebook follows you wherever you go. I told him his teachers, his principal, etc ... that it wasn't worth ruining his enjoyment of facebook.

Surprisingly, my son was not angry with me for reading his page or his chat ... and somewhere deep inside I realized he wanted me to see it. We talked a long time about this ... and his tears hurt me to my core, as well as the helplessness he expressed in "not being able to get away from this boy" who apparently had been bullying him ALL YEAR LONG IN SCHOOL!!!!!!!

I was livid, but at the same time so happy that my son still feels close enough to me to talk to me about his feelings. He told me he wanted to enjoy Facebook, but he didn't think it was worth it if he was going to be bullied. At first I asked him to think about it, to not let one person ruin something that he enjoyed.

I sent the boy a message on Facebook that said the following:

Your parents are more than welcome to call me if there is a problem with my son. _____ parents have my number, if your parents would like to talk to me.

I have already told my son not to respond to you anymore, and I'd appreciate that you do not respond to him any longer.

If I see anymore conversation on facebook between the two of you, I will have to speak with your parents.

The part of me that understood a 12 yr old, knew that my son would not like my message. But the parent in me wanted to shut this down, and REMIND the other boy that parents read these pages.

I am proud of my son. I sometimes see glimpses of maturity and clarity in his decisions ... but for the most part, he is still 12 - and not a 12 going on 20 twelve year old. He's just a normal twelve year old.

Four hours later, he woke me up, and asked me to delete his account. He said he knew he would not be able to NOT respond, and that he knew this kid would continue to come after him on Facebook.

I took a screen shot of the pages, and then, at the request of my son I deleted his account.


Moni @ CL Journal said...

I'm so sorry to hear what happened to your son. I'm not sure if you know this, but you could have had the child blocked from his account as well as send the facebook pages directly to FB (report abuse).

These kids are ridiculous with their bullying. Hopefully your son will get another account specifically for his family members and close friends. This is why I keep my friend list VERY SMALL. I have to REALLY KNOW AND LIKE you to friend you. I do not friend just anyone.

Kudos for him and to you for taking quick action. These kids do not understand that doing such actions lead right back to them (ip addresses tell everything!)

Marcia said...

oh Keni, my heart goes out to both of you. I am 61 now, but abouyt 20 years ago when we were still in the military, we were in the base bowling alley when my childhood bully stood in front of me. She didn't have a clue who I was, but to me she hadn't changed one bit. Those with me said the color ran out fo me and I was shaking. She would wait for me about a block from home and proceed to beat the stuffing out of me. I was in 3rd grade and she was in 6th. The reason, I didn't have a father. He had died in a work accident when I was 4. Something must have been said and overheard by her and from there the bully took over. I can feel exactly how you felt replaying your past and seeing your sons today bully. I think you are handling this admirably. Lots of hugs and prayers going your way.

Sandra said...

Keni...I think you did the correct thing. First of have to patrol, what the children are doing, there are bad people out there in the world...and they can change our kids, grandkids in a second. Your son sounds smart, and try not to be to mad about the language, as you said it how they talk when not around adults, they have heard and said the they know them. Posting to the bully yourself, might stop it...however I am sure your son might think that it could make it worse. There is a bully show on TV my husband watches...where at a older age the bully have hurt folks badly over the years, lots of folks, and this young man puts them in a ring with professional fighters and they kick there butts... so they can see how it feels to be bullied. I watched it one day and those adults started bullying folks at a young age. It happens, and we have to deal with it. Your son may have to fight...just try to be there to understand...he has to defend himself. It a hard world. You are a good Mom.