Cyberbullying and its negative impact on teens often makes headlines. Who hasn’t read about a student committing suicide because of the senseless taunts of others? But we hear less about those who perpetrate such taunts actually being held accountable. So when former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s daughter became a target, the fur flew.
It all began with a tweet from the ballplayer that read “Congrats to Gabby Schilling who will pitch for the Salve Regina Seahawks next year.” Schilling’s daughter earned a spot as a pitcher on the college team, and as a proud father, he broadcast his congrats on Twitter. But what should have been an exciting moment for the family quickly turned ugly.
As often happens on social media, some Twitter users saw it as an opportunity to take pot shots at Schilling and his daughter, making lewd, even obscene comments in response.
Schilling wasn’t having it. He blasted the offenders in a scathing column on his blog, 38 Catches, calling them out. His response quickly went viral. He was also determined to hold the worst offenders accountable. He identified them, and several have since been suspended from their jobs or fired. He also says he plans to seek “all legal options.”
So what message does this send to parents?
Cyberbullying must not be tolerated. Teach your teens that they are not faceless when using social media. Should they cross the line by making cruel remarks that hurt others, there can be consequences, serious consequences if their misuse is grave. Kids should never say something online that they wouldn't say in person to another.
Kids often think they are invisible when sitting behind a computer. This is never the case.
Cyberbullies can be identified and should be held accountable: by contacting their parents, their school, their employers. Provide teens with guidelines and help them manage their online life. Let them know that cyberbullying is unacceptable. Period.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
• Keep lines of communication open with your teen. Be supportive.
• Know what your child is doing online.
• Put a name to the face of your cyberbully. Hold that person accountable for his or her online behavior by contacting parents.
• If bullying continues, contact your school, police, or employers and report the bully's the behavior.
• To learn more about the ways cyberbullying takes place, go to stompoutbullying.org