App use by cyberbullies is clearly rising. Along with vicious texting, app use by cyberbullies was an important factor in Rebecca Ann Sedwick’s decision to commit suicide.
The question is, what else could Rebecca’s parents have really done? And what can parents do when app use by cyberbullies targets their child?
“Rebecca’s mother, Tricia Norman, faces the frustration of wondering what else she could have done,” wrote the New York Times. “She complained to school officials for several months about the bullying, and when little changed, she pulled Rebecca out of school. She closed down her daughter’s Facebook page and took her cellphone away. She changed her number. Rebecca was so distraught in December that she began to cut herself, so her mother had her hospitalized and got her counseling. As best she could, Ms. Norman said, she kept tabs on Rebecca’s social media footprint. It all seemed to be working, she said.”
Unfortunately, it did not prove to be enough. Rebecca appears to have hidden the extent of the cyberbullying and its sources from her mother and the result was tragedy.
“Unknown to her mother, Rebecca had recently signed on to new applications — ask.fm, and Kik and Voxer — which kick-started the messaging and bullying once again. ‘I had never even heard of them; I did go through her phone but didn’t even know,’ said Ms. Norman.”
In reality, “Rebecca was “absolutely terrorized on social media,” Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk County said at a news conference this week.”
Rebecca’s suicide is tragic. But the particularly frightening part of this is that her mother, Tricia, was quite vigilant over her child’s digital footprint. How many parents actually control their child’s phone, manage their social media, and book counseling?
Parents know they need answers. Cyberbullying, and particularly text and app use by cyberbullies, is a tough issue to solve. But, with strong communication between parents and teens, oversight like Mrs. Norman practiced, and enforcement tools like MMGuardian, which can block misused apps and block bullying contacts, parents do have a fighting chance to protect their children successfully.