How Should We Punish Cyberbullies?

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Back in early October my sweet, outgoing daughter, who is a freshman in high school, became withdrawn and quiet. She went from being a child that loved spending time with her friends to a girl who didn’t want to leave my side. I loved having her close, but I could tell something was wrong. When she did finally open up one night, she told me she was being cyberbullied.

I got the attention of city and county commissioners, state representatives and state legislators who helped me get the police involved. Subpoenas were issued and sent to the social media sites, IP addresses were found, more subpoenas sent out and finally the police found the email addresses and info of the person. For some reason, in my mind I thought it was another girl doing it. Surprisingly enough, it was two fourteen year old boys that haven’t gone to school with her since the 5th grade. The boys were brought into the police station and confessed to doing it. Their parents were there and according to the investigator, the mom was crying, the dad furious and the young boys terrified.

Then came the question, "Do you want to press charges?” I wrestled with this for days. They hurt my daughter and changed her. Slowly I am seeing parts of her old self come back, but there is a piece of her that is different now and always will be. She has also grown immensely from this. Some thing changed between us. I think she sees me a little differently now and I have shared with how her strength through this inspires me. Our children know that we will do anything to protect them, but now she has seen firsthand that I mean it. There is this unspoken closeness and respect that I really can’t describe. Not only did these boys change my daughter’s life, but they changed mine.

Cyberbullying isn’t something you can hide from. Since we didn’t know who it was or how or when it would stop, I decided to move her to a small private school. The downside is that it is on the other side of town and has added over an hour to my driving time each day. I will do anything for my children. But trust me, there are days when I am so stressed trying to get six kids to and from four different schools and figure out which school has which function when, that I question how I am going to keep this up. Spending five hours a day driving them to and from the different schools was not part of my plan for the next four years.

When she first told me that she was being cyberbullied, I went from feeling helpless to learning that this is an epidemic across our nation. I am determined to use my voice and our experience to work to change laws in our state and other states to bring awareness. I have been asked to sit on an anti-bullying task force for our district and my daughters and I are working on starting a foundation to offer anti-bullying educational programs for schools. I never imagined that something so painful would become a platform and passion for my family. Two weeks ago, our local CBS affiliate, asked if they could come and interview us about our experience. I shared our story and explained the current laws. Then my daughter agreed to talk. They asked her what she would say to other kids listening. She said, "Don’t be afraid to tell your parents. You might be surprised to find out that they can do more than you ever imagined." And she is right.

What would you have done with boys? It goes against every fiber of my being to be mean and vindictive. I wrestle with how they added hardships and stress to my life and hurt my daughter. But I struggle with the fact that I don’t think these boys had any idea about the harm they were causing. Should they be punished with a criminal record for an adolescent prank that went too far? Isn’t it better that I model grace, mercy and forgiveness to my daughter, the boys and their families? Children are committing suicide from being bullied. I have seen and read countless interviews with children that were doing the bullying and almost every single one of them says, "I never thought she/he would kill themselves." So where do we start? What should the consequences be for bullying? In my case, what should I have done? The police put in time and effort to find these boys and then I tell them I can’t press charges? As a parent, what would you have done?

This is an issue that is going to be huge this upcoming legislative session in every state. I intend to use my voice. But I don’t want it to be just my message, story and thoughts for my child. I want to be a voice on behalf of all parents who just want to protect their children. And quite frankly, right now, I am a mom who fought for her daughter, found out who was doing the bullying and am struggling with what the consequences should be. So I am reaching out to anyone who reads this. Share your thoughts and opinions with me.

To read the original article “My Child Became the Victim of a Cyberbully” and to share your thoughts go to www.blythenewsome.com or www.facebook.com/blythenewsome.

Fighting for my children, and yours,

Blythe

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