Bullying Prevention Puts Focus on Parents

Posted at: 10/17/2013 10:55 PM
Updated at: 10/17/2013 11:01 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- October is National Bullying Prevention month, and while most efforts to stop bullying start with the kids, more of the focus is now being put on the parents.

In Florida, two young girls, ages 12 and 14, face felony charges after authorities say they bullied another girl online to the point where she tragically took her own life.

The case has attracted national attention, with much of that attention being directed at the parents.

"If I could, they'd already be in jail,” said Grady Judd, the sheriff overseeing the case. “But I can tell you this, we're keeping our options open."

Sheriff Judd said he hasn’t prosecuted the parents because there isn’t sufficient evidence they knew about the alleged bullying.

The father of one of the accused girls admits he should have done more, telling ABC News, “It's my fault, maybe, that I don't know more about that kind of stuff."

But the girl’s mother says they checked her Facebook page regularly and never saw any troubling behavior.

But the question remains: Should parents be held responsible for what their kids do online?

"We are responsible for our kids,” said Peggy Young, an anti-bullying advocate living in Austin. “That's why it's so important for us to play a pivotal role in their life."

Young has a thirteen-year-old son and said she knows his Facebook username and password and checks his account regularly.

She said that while every legal case is different, it is a parents job to know what their kids are doing online.

"They need to know who their friends are, have access to their accounts, be monitoring sort of what they're doing and remind them that what's okay in person, the same standards apply when you're online,” Young said.

Earlier this year both the Minnesota and Iowa legislatures failed to pass bills that would have strengthened school policy when it comes to cyber bullying.

But parents know that thanks to social media, what happens in school often follows kids home, where it then becomes the parents’ job to sort it out.

"It is our responsibility what our kids do,” Young said. “As soon as we're made aware of something that's happened, sit them down and say, “Okay, this is what I'm being told. What's your side of the story? Let's get this out, let's fix this before it does come to something tragic.’"