Dear Annie: I am a worried mother. My 14-year-old daughter is on a social media site with her friends. She was at a birthday party last Saturday, and apparently, all sorts of photos were taken. One of the girls posted a picture and purposefully cropped her face out of the photo, with some type of hashtag about my daughter being a nerd and no one wanting her at the party anyway because she is “ugly.”
My daughter locked herself in her room and cried for the first week. Each morning is a battle to get her to go to school. She thought this girl was her friend, and she can’t understand why her friend was so mean and humiliating to her on social media.
I tried to explain to my daughter that it’s just one mean girl who probably, deep down, hates herself and has to be mean as a result. It never feels good to be purposefully mean. I even quoted from one of your columns and said that “Hurt people hurt people.” My daughter would not hear any of my pep talk. She said I don’t understand — that this girl is the coolest girl in the school, and that a diss like that in front of all her followers was social suicide.
I have also noticed that she has been glued to her phone ever since, trying to post selfies of herself and endlessly scrolling through posts. She seems to have completely lost interest in things that once brought her joy, like walking the dog or going to tennis practice. This incident seems to have sparked a sort of depression. Since we got her a phone, I have noticed that the light that was once in her eyes is slowly dimming.
I want to take away her phone, but I’m afraid it’s too late. She just seems so sad and totally preoccupied with that little blue screen. — Concerned Mother
Dear Concerned Mother: Your daughter experienced cyberbullying. Sadly, this is happening at an alarming rate. There are many helpful websites including the STOMP Out Bullying website that you and your daughter can search through together.
The National PTA site is dedicated to parents and offers tools to help children deal with cyberbullying.
A new documentary called “The Social Dilemma” came out on Netflix, and it discusses some of these very issues. Sit down and watch it with your daughter.
It’s also not too late to get her off her phone. But the decision will stick so much better if it comes from her. Ask her if she remembers her life before the phone and social media. Maybe it was a little freer, less complicated, and she was happier. Be an example by making sure you are not glued to your phone or on social media.
It is hard enough to be a teenager without all this online comparison and obsession with how someone looks through fake filters. At the end of the day, a warm, loving hug from Mom can do a great deal to calm her nerves. Even if she pushes you away, keep trying.
If none of this works and your daughter is completely withdrawn, you should consult a professional therapist.
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