Ask Amy

Wednesday, March 3, 2010; 12:00 AM

DEAR AMY: What's a parent to do when their child is being bullied relentlessly by peers on Facebook? As a parent who monitors my kids' Facebook communications, I'm disgusted by the ongoing profanity-filled sniping and attacks by individuals and groups alike.

School administrators say they have no control over what happens outside of school. Maybe not, but Facebook repercussions are felt every day in the hallways, classrooms and lunchrooms at school.

We live in a small town, but no one seems to want to discuss this. In other eras, when something was amiss, one (or more) of the parents who heard or saw infractions would step in and reprimand the offending child. I'm about to do the same and let the offending one(s) know that a parent saw the nastiness, and that it is unacceptable.

Amy, what's a parent to do in this age of cyberbullying? -- Worried Mom

DEAR MOM: I read your letter to Justin Patchin, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center, who asserts that teen cyberbullying is tricky.

You might assume, for instance, that you can just yank your kids off of Facebook or have them "unfriend" or "block" the bullies, but this doesn't necessarily solve the problem -- and may exacerbate it.

Patchin suggests that you not approach the offenders or their parents (yet), but mentor and educate your children about this growing problem.

Collect the evidence. Print out and save the bullies' text.

If the bullying is personal and threatening, if it escalates or spills into the hallways at school, the school does have an obligation to step in, punish the aggressors and engage the other families.

Even though it's tempting, your kids should not respond to bullying online.

Patchin also suggests taking a break from Facebook to let things settle down -- and I wholeheartedly agree.

For more information and tips on how to handle this, check the research center's Web site at www.cyberbullying.us.


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