In the News: Bullying and Cyberbullying

April 8th, 2010 by Kathy McManus

Are parents responsible for their children’s behavior?

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Phoebe Prince, a pretty 15-year-old student who had recently emigrated from Ireland to South Hadley, Massachusetts, committed suicide after being relentlessly bullied by a group of girls at her new high school.

“She was a freshman and she had a brief fling with a senior, a football player, and for this she became the target of the Mean Girls,” wrote Kevin Cullen in The Boston Globe. “They followed Phoebe around, calling her a slut. When they wanted to be more specific, they called her an Irish slut.” The harassment took place on campus and off, with cyberbullying via Facebook, cell phone, and text messages.

Shocked parents questioned why there weren’t better laws against cyberbullying. But The Globe’s Cullen shifted the responsibility back to them, saying “parents are the real untapped resource” in reducing bullying. He quoted cyberbullying expert Professor Elizabeth Englander, of Bridgewater State College, who noted that “Almost all cyberbullying by kids takes place on computers in the home. Where are the parents? They don’t know what their children are up to online, and they don’t know how to talk to them about it.”

According to Englander’s research, 25 percent of kids say they’ve been directly bullied, and 60 percent have been cyberbullied. “Englander says we need to treat bullying as a public health issue,” wrote Cullen. “We reduced teen smoking and drunken driving with massive education programs. We can do the same with bullying. But it starts at home.”

Tell us what you think: Should parents be held responsible if their child bullies another?