Its gone midnight as I write this but for the first time in 3 days I am going to sleep tonight. I am free of worry and feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I have not slept, been frustrated, Ive cried tears of anger, all because my daughter was a victim of cyberbullying.
It is our job as her parents to protect her from any harm that could come her way. We are responsible parents and we do what we feel is right. We make sure she doesn't go out on her own, we monitor what she does on the Internet and who she contacts. We have done everything we could do to protect her. The most shocking thing of all though, this wasn't done by an adult, it was done by a ten year old girl, and we couldn't do a thing. This is our experience of the past few days and a warning to all parents that hopefully you can learn from this from us.
My daughter has had trouble with a particular girl at school for the past few years, its gradually got worse and escalated from name calling to pyhsical abuse. We have spoken to the teachers and been up the school and they have been keeping an eye on it. However on Monday my daughter was approached by a boy at her school who told her to stop writing stuff about him on Facebook. She denied it as she didn't know what he was talking about. She came home upset and to prove a point my wife turned on the computer and looked her up on Facebook aiming to prove there was no page with her name on it. What she saw made her burst into tears.
This child, because its important to remember she is only a child, had asked my wife to be her friend a few months ago so as she could talk to Laura on Facebook. My wife thought that by doing this she could gage a better idea of what was being said, thus having more control of what was happening and then be able to forewarn the school before anything happened. So she agreed to this. At first everything was fine then the messages stopped and my daughter lost interest.
However this was only part of the child's plan. She had set up a Facebook page using my daughters photo, and cut and pasted pictures of ALL my children onto this page. She had then changed my daughters age to 20 when she is only 10, changed the privacy settings so ANYONE had access to these private pictures and started to invite people to be her friend. People we didn't know. We had absolutely no control over this page and still don't. My wife rang me at work to tell me what she had found and to be honest I was dumbstruck. My daughter who I had watched grow into a beautiful, friendly, caring child was the victim of Cyberbullying.
Ill be honest my first reaction was pure and utter rage and all I wanted to do was go straight round the child's house. I knew who it was because she hadn't been as clever as she thought as she had set up the page using her own email address and also posted some pictures of herself on the page. She had also used my daughters page to friend request MY WIFE!. How I kept my temper all the way home I'm not sure even now. We stayed up until 3am emailing Facebook trying to get them to remove the page and called the police.
Angry and frustrated we talked for hours not sure how or what to do next.
The next day we went up the school and reported it to the headmistress, who I have to say has been superb. She asked us how we knew it was this child and I showed her the page and the email address, plus the photo's. To say she was shocked was an understatement. She admitted she didn't know how to use Facebook and went and got a teacher who did, After looking at my wife's page she said and I quote:
" As a parent I'm not sure what more you could have done".
They said they would deal with it and asked us to leave it with them. Feeling a little better we left and went to the police.
We gave a statement for nearly 2 hours and at the end were told to and I quote again
"i suggest you deal with this yourselves"
The anger got the better of me and I yelled at the officer at the top of my voice. I'm not proud of it but the frustration got the better of me. I yelled at them that there could be paedophiles looking at these pictures of my children, that my daughter was at risk as this child had been posing as her online and talking to people we didn't know who thought she was 20 years of age. You know what they did.....nothing. They let me out of the police station yelling that I had tried to do it the right way and they were encouraging me to do it the wrong way and they didn't care a bit.
I seethed with rage, ranting and yelling about what I thought of them and I'm ashamed to say yelling at my wife in the street. My daughter had been set up and no-one wanted to help me fix it and fix it quickly. With nothing to lose I decided to channel my anger in the right direction. I had to go to work as Id taken time off to deal with this, so when I got there I made a formal complaint about the officer. I was told someone would call me shortly as they took these complaints seriously. I wasn't holding my breath.
I then decided to log into my daughters page as my wife and wrote the following message:
This NOT Laura Hodgson's PAGE. This has been set up fraudulently and the police are investigating this. I am Laura's Mother and we know who has done this. The police are tracing this through the IP address and anyone that has accepted the friend request or has had contact or commented with Laura on this site will be labile for investigation by the police. The school are also aware and are monitoring this page. We know who you are and the police know who you are and they are now gathering evidence to prosecute you.
What more could I do?. I had to make them feel frightened and worried the way that they had done to us. I had if you want to get a little revenge of my own. Within minutes there was a message asking if this was really Laura's page. I knew the name and the child straight away but decided to ignore it. My wife then phoned me at work to say the mother of the child that had set this up had been on the phone asking why we hadn't gone to her first. My wife replied that we had a problem and we went to the school and then the police. The mother started shouting down the phone about how her daughter was innocent and that she would go up the school first thing and sort it out and prove her daughters innocence. My wife said good because then you will see the evidence. At this the mother hung up.
We spent another evening and night worried about what was happening and the fact we couldn't help my daughter. This morning I took her to school expecting a confrontation with the mother and guess what, I saw her and she walked passed me with her head down not wanting to make eye contact. I had a feeling then that this nightmare was possibly going to come to an end. The goby, brave person over the phone had disappeared. I wonder why?
The girl wasn't at school yesterday and no-one knows exactly why. Do I care? No. My daughter left school today and when asked by her Nana what was school like she answered "Perfect".
We have kept an eye on the page tonight and the person that set it up has been deleted.....surprising? No not really I reported her to Facebook for being underage and a cyber bully. My daughters page still remains but I have been assured by Facebook it will be removed within the next 48 hours. Not ideal but it will have to do for now.
The police are not getting involved as they couldn't as no law in their eyes had been broken. A sad state of affairs but the best bit is this. The person who did it and the mother of the child don't know that. I hope that for the next few weeks that every time their phone rings, their door is knocked, they hear a car pull-up, that they believe the police are there. I make no apologies for that, they deserve it.
The two saddest things of all though are this, firstly this upset, the anger, the frustration has been caused by a 10 year old. Why? where the hell was the mother? does she not care what her daughter is doing on a laptop? If she does know and did nothing to stop it she should be ashamed of herself. Secondly and more importantly from my point of view, when my daughter need me most, when she looked at me and asked me to stop it, I couldn't. I couldn't stop it there and then. I couldn't make the page disappear. That even now is the hardest thing for me to take, and Ill admit it makes me cry with anger and frustration that when she needed me most I feel like Ive let her down. That's a burden Ill have to carry for a while.