I think my teenage son may be the victim of cyberbullying. While cleaning up his room I noticed his Facebook page was still up on his computer monitor and decided to take a look. I saw several threatening messages on his page. Some of them were from his friends, whom I know. I am not sure if this was some kind of joke or if my son is really in some sort of trouble. I want to talk with him about it, but one, I don’t want him to know I was on his Facebook page or snooping around in his room. Nor do I want him to feel embarrassed if in fact he is being bullied. What should I do?
As parents our first instinct is to protect our children. No parent wants to sit back while their child is facing a potentially dangerous situation. And I understand you not wanting your teenaged son to feel like you are invading his privacy, but at the same time, your son’s safety is the most important factor.
Depending on the nature of the threats, you should act accordingly. If the threats are violent, you have no choice but to talk with your son about the threats and help him determine the best course of action, even if that means getting school authorities and law enforcement involved. If the threats are not violent, definitely take note of the friends making remarks and begin to pay closer attention to your son’s relationships. Create more opportunities for conversations with your son where he might feel comfortable and led to fill you in on the situation.
While bullying is usually something a teen needs to confront and handle independently, it can still be very dangerous and damaging if not handled properly. Statistics show that cyberbullying incidents have lead to violence and even suicide.
Author of the upcoming book Been There Done That: And Lived to Tell About It (due out Spring 2011), Tamara R. Allen is Your Advice Guru giving REAL advice from REAL experience. Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow Tamara on twitter @tamararallen or check out her daily column and archives at www.tamararallen.com.