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

DEAR AMY: I live within one of the most extremist liberal bastions in the country. Men here are minimized, ordered to the rear and, even more often, told precisely what we should think and do.

I am an active 63-year-old old guy and have worked hard to get where I am.

I wish to enjoy my life to the fullest by riding motorcycles up and down the coast and sea kayaking in open water. These are life-affirming activities, and I'm pretty darned lucky.

Fortunately, I often am joined by much younger "Barbie doll" types. I have invited many women my age to join me, but I am hatefully told that I am an old fool to be seen with these much younger women.

Why do I have to live my life at the speed of smell just to satisfy these old, progressive liberal, blue-haired biddies that have marked the end of their lives by becoming bingo captains at their church?

I am getting slammed for this.

Is acting young and refusing to slow down to please the liberal slug masters of my community wrong? -- Living My Life

DEAR LIVING: When you mess with and diss "blue-haired biddies," you're going to get some blowback. And as long as you stereotype people the way you do, you're going to get stereotyped too.

You are way too invested in and angry about other people's opinions about you. In fact, due to the volume and pitch of your protest, I can only assume that on some level you fear you wouldn't be able to keep up with the social and intellectual challenges of being with a woman in your age group.

But if your delight in the thrill ride that is your current existence makes you an "old fool," then man up and wear your title with pride.

DEAR AMY: "AMG" wrote to you complaining about people charging their cell phones in the outlets of restaurants. You seem to think it's OK to poach electricity from other people.

I don't get it. You continue to preach the lowering of social standards. -- Irritated

DEAR IRRITATED: I told "AMG" that people charging phones at restaurant electrical outlets was the restaurant's business. As long as these devices don't present a tripping hazard, it isn't something for other patrons to worry about.

I don't see this as a social convention but as an issue of electrical use.

(Send questions via e-mail to or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611. Amy Dickinson's memoir, "The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them" (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.)


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