Are parents responsible for bullies?
Should parents be held responsible when their children continuously bully others? That’s the question many, including law enforcement, are asking after a tragic case emerged from Florida.
A month ago, a young Florida teen, Rebecca Sedwick, jumped to her death from the tower of an abandoned cement plant after approximately two years of physical, verbal and online bullying.
Two girls – the 12 year-old former best friend of the victim and another 14 year-old – were arrested in the case, charged as juveniles with third-degree felony aggravated stalking. The sheriff in the case said even if they are convicted, they probably won’t spend time in juvenile detention because they don’t have a criminal history.
Rebecca had talked to her mother about the bullying and even changed schools to escape the two girls, yet the tormenting continued online, authorities said.
It was a Facebook comment over the weekend that Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said led him to arrest the girls. He repeated the online post from the older girl almost word for word at a news conference Tuesday.
“’Yes, I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself but I don’t give a …’ and you can add the last word yourself,” Judd said.
The sheriff was aggravated the girl’s parents allowed her access to social networks after Rebecca’s death and said he made the arrest so she wouldn’t bully anyone else.
In an interview with ABC News that aired Wednesday, the 14-year-old’s parents said their daughter would never write something like that and the girl’s Facebook account had been hacked, a claim police don’t believe.
The mother and father of the older girl went on national TV and defended their daughter – and themselves. They said they often checked their daughter’s social networking activity and don’t believe their daughter bullied Rebecca to suicide, as authorities have charged.
A day earlier, the father told The Associated Press by phone: “My daughter’s a good girl and I’m 100 percent sure that whatever they’re saying about my daughter is not true.”
But the younger girl’s father told ABC News he wished he could have done more.
“I feel horrible about the whole situation,” he said. “It’s my fault, maybe that I don’t know more about that kind of stuff. I wish I did.”
While a parent may not be able to control every aspect of their child’s behavior, it is unlikely one can know so little about how a child is tormenting another, especially over the span of a year. It also makes no sense that any parent would allow a 12- or 14- year-old to kid freely access social media sites without monitoring what they post, or what is written to them. Any parent that avoids overseeing online activity is irresponsible.
Could more have been done to help Rebecca if the parents of the accused bullies had been paying more attention to their children? Maybe. Maybe Rebecca would not be dead.
More and more cases of suicides stemming from bullying are continuously occurring around the country. Parents should really use these cases to not only learn how their kids treat others, but also learn if their kids are suffering at the hands of another.
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