Question: Some kids have been texting intimidating messages to my cell phone and posting mean rumours about me on Facebook. At first I tried to ignore them, but the situation has gotten so bad that I don’t want to show my face at school anymore. These people are destroying my life! What can I do about this?

Answer:

You’ve become a victim of one of the darkest and most harmful innovations of the online age: cyber-bullying. As you’re learning the hard way, cell phones and the Internet, like any useful tool, can become destructive weapons in the wrong hands. If you want to protect yourself, save your reputation and keep things from escalating, you’re going to have to take some deliberate steps to nip the problem in the bud.

Tell your parents

You should begin by bringing it up with your parents. Put your worries about humiliation or embarrassment aside. Reach down inside and find the courage to be upfront and straightforward with them about the treatment you’re experiencing. They’ll be your best allies in the battle against cyber-bullying. This doesn’t mean that they can simply "fix" the problem for you. You probably wouldn’t want them to do that even if they could – after all, a big part of growing up is learning to face issues like this on your own. But your mom and dad can walk through this dark valley with you, and they do have contacts with other adults in positions of authority who may be able to help. That’s not to mention that, as your parents, they have a right and a responsibility to know what’s going on with you.

Find a trusted mentor

It might also be helpful to find another trusted adult – a pastor, youth leader, church elder or family friend – to whom you can open your heart about the fears and anxieties you’re going through as a result of cyber-bullying. Make sure it’s a person who can bring some mature perspective and Scriptural wisdom to bear on the situation. Don’t leave yourself in the position of facing these disturbing threats alone. In addition, feel free to call and speak with one of Focus on the Family Canada’s registered Christian counsellors over the phone. You can reach us Monday through Friday, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Pacific time, at 1.800.661.9800. We’d be happy to come alongside you in any way we can.

Set boundaries

As your next step, we suggest that you work with your parents and mentors to define the purpose of your involvement in social networking and to establish appropriate boundaries for any future online and texting activity. After that, we strongly recommend that you take a break from any further activities of this nature for a designated period of time. This will give you an opportunity to heal emotionally and to rebuild your social reputation. If your parents ask you to give up the phone and the Internet altogether, you’d be wise to follow their instructions. You should know by now – particularly in view of your bullying problem – that they only have your best interests at heart.

During this time, it would be a good idea to rethink the pros and cons of online social networking. Ask yourself whether there might be better ways of connecting with friends and classmates. You may also want to take time out to evaluate, coolly and rationally, some of the malicious statements that have been made about you. Separate the lies from the truth. If you decide that any of the criticisms have a valid basis in fact, adjust your attitudes and actions accordingly and move on with your life. Simple verbal abuse can be tossed aside and forgotten. If any of this abuse is seriously slanderous or violent in nature, we’d advise you to keep a formal record of it. You may need to use it as evidence if it becomes necessary to contact the police.

God loves you 

Above all, remember that you are God’s precious child, that He loves and cherishes you as if you were the only person ever born, and that He has charged His angels to stand guard over you and protect you through the good times and the bad. You’ve been made in the Creator’s image, and as a result you are an individual of great value and worth. As such, you do not deserve the treatment that the bullies have been dishing out to you, and you need to understand that their words are unjustified and their actions indefensible. With the help of your parents, friends and adult advisors, you can resist their assaults and fend off their abuse, standing firm in the love of Jesus Christ.

© 2010 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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