Yes. I was cyber bullied. I am a middle aged (some people prefer to call my age group young adult, though) accomplished writer, educator, coach and mother who recently experienced distressing, frightening and completely disturbing feelings inflicted on me by a bully—a middle aged woman and mother—who allowed herself to attack me and outwardly express her hatred and spite.
I do not know anything about this bully except that her son is in my youngest son’s class. My son’s school is a private international school that is classified as one of the best in the country. Parents from my son’s class share a social media group aimed at providing notifications to parents through a class mum who is in direct contact with the school and classroom teacher, in order to facilitate efficient communication with other parents.
The incident occurred when I posted a question about when the tryouts for the swimming squad were scheduled for. It was the second week of school, communication means with the school were still being set up, I was managing everything myself in my home because my husband was away on an urgent business trip, I was juggling my ten hour work hours in my job, helping my children with homework, attending information evenings twice in one week at my children’s school, grocery shopping and uniform shopping for my children to make sure they had food to eat and school clothes to wear, celebrating my youngest son’s ninth birthday all by myself, spending quality time with my children and making sure they were doing well, preparing for my demanding job as a district coach and trainer, and managing issues related to my published books, world-wide distribution, emails from my marketing coach and publishers, etc.
The mother who cyber bullied me decided to hatefully judge me. Two parents, lovingly and helpfully, responded and answered my query, and I thank them from all my heart. But the mother who cyber bullied me decided to do something else that was completely hurtful. She accused me of disturbing her peace of mind by causing an unnecessary trail of messages, that I was too lazy to check the school website to find an answer to my question, and that I was the cause of a great disturbance for her, among other hurtful things. Please note that this is a shortened and paraphrased excerpt of what she wrote and hurtfully accused me of. I responded to her saying that I have always been part of these helpful social groups, have never minded helping a mum in need and that what she said was hurtful.
Shockingly, her response was overblown. She continued to attack me through the use of private messages, where she said more hurtful words and threatened to attack me.
Oh my Goodness! I was being cyber bullied! Me, a middle aged woman! I didn’t know that people my age and within my social circle could experience cyber bullying and from another mother. But it happened and it felt terrible. I will not, however, delve into the psychological frame of mind of the perpetrator; I choose instead to find closure and make this a learning opportunity, where we could help our children, some of whom are being cyber bullied every day and as I am writing.
I have been part of school social media groups for many years now, and they have been a wonderful opportunity for me and many others to learn about latest news related to our children’s classes and school. Groups have mainly involved mums who reach out for each other to provide the necessary support for their children’s well-being, and a fantastic opportunity for parents to connect socially and make new friends with parents of children of the same age and class.
For years, we have shared helpful notifications that reminded us that our children had a class trip, needed to dress up in a certain costume for a certain school event, had to send in necessary materials that the school was asking for, finding out about what our children were learning, or receiving messages from the teacher or school head. For years, I have met with these mums during school events and children birthdays. Our hands were stretched out to each other, helping out any mother in need, no matter how small or big the need was. We are mothers who care so much for our children. Many of us have jobs outside the home, making our responsibilities more difficult; many of us do not have the opportunity to pick up our children from school or chat with their teachers for latest updates; many of us are clueless when faced with certain developmental issues that may arise with our children, making parenting a continuous challenge for all of us. So, we have been very appreciative for these social groups.
Yet, there comes a mother who thinks that she is the only mum in the world to have problems and a busy lifestyle, that the world only revolves around her and her peace of mind, and allows herself to be hurtful by harassing other mums who are in need—mums who love and care about other mums.
I was cyber bullied. I am trying to deal with the disturbing feelings, but it’s hard. I have been reflecting on the incident for several days now and I am trying to resolve my distressing feelings about this. Should I be sorry for reaching out for the help of other mothers, whom I normally help too? Was it so bad to post a question without checking the website first? Did I deserve the spite and rage that the mother expressed towards me? It is not alright for me to feel so intimidated, but I do feel this way. Is it acceptable? The answer should be ‘no’ to all the above.
I am crying right now because I can feel how our children must feel when they are bullied, cyber bullied and harassed. I have always advocated for children’s best interests, and worked hard to help adults create safe and positive environments for our children to thrive. I am crying because I can imagine how terrible our children must feel when they experience this kind of hatred and harassment. It feels completely dreadful. I am a certified life coach, a positive behavior support coach, a mother, an author, a psychologist, an educator…and still I feel miserable and wounded, even with all the skills I have to deal with this, I still feel afraid and violated. Mainly because I am reminded of how miserable and wounded our children must feel when their peace of mind and innocence are both hurt and violated.
I am writing right now because writing helps me deal with my feelings and resolve any issues; I am also writing this as a reminder to all the adults to take the issue of cyber bullying very very seriously. What is it that you could do to help?
First of all, make sure your children understand that you are there for them whenever they need to talk about any incident where they felt attacked, violated and hurt. No matter how small the painful feelings are, if they cause pain then they MUST be heard and dealt with. Watch out for any changes in your children’s behaviors, sleeping patterns or appetite. A sudden onset of anxious, angry or sad emotions expressed from your child should not be overlooked. Practice active listening and find out what triggered the changes in their behavior.
Second, make sure you report ANY incident to the relevant social media channel by contacting a customer support representative via email or going to the necessary ‘Report’ link on different platforms. For a comprehensive list of how to contact someone to report a cyber bullying incident, go to the Cyberbullying Research Center on www.cyberbullying.org/report . Believe me, they act upon your reports. I have reported incidents and found out that the accounts of those bullies were blocked.
Third, DO NOT allow the perpetrator to continue with their attacks. If it is on a social media platform, tell them to STOP, block the person and report them. When the mother started sending me private messages where she was attacking and threatening me, I immediately blocked her. I reported that on the group and let all the other twenty eight parents find out. I did not report her to the social media company, just because I am a very empathetic person and do not like to harm people that hurt me. But, if the perpetrator was hurting any of my children, I would not have had empathy and would have definitely reported the issue to the social media company.
Fourth, find out who would be the go-to person at your child’s school in case a cyber bullying incident occurs. Find out what the procedure is and what the school does to deal with incidents of cyber bullying.
Fifth, allow the suffering person time to express their feelings. It will take some time for them to overcome those painful feelings, but they need your adult support throughout, until they could resolve the feelings, get over the fear, and find closure to the incident.
One of my children has faced many cyber bullying incidents. It breaks my heart every time, but I make sure to be there for him every time, help him and guide him to the best way for dealing with the incident, reporting the incidents and getting to the bottom of it with the school if the cyber bully is in the same school, making sure that consequences take place, and that prevention is being practiced. My children’s mental health and well-being is my priority. Your children’s mental health and well-being should also be your priority.
Thank you for reading my article. Thank you for helping me deal with this painful incident and for allowing me to find closure to this disturbing occurrence in order to carry on with my mission to support others in creating safe and positive environments for our children to be happy, confident and successful.
My love to you all.