For weeks after the Instagram bullying incident people kept asking me: How is your daughter doing? I have answered the question often in person, but I haven’t had time to share news here. So today is the day I finally got around to writing about what happened – AFTER.
Here’s the thing. Immediately after the Instagram bullying incident my teen, who struggles with anxiety, had a kneejerk reaction. She wanted to quit school, leave grade nine and stop entirely. That lasted about one to two days. Then came this. ..
We talked her through it and we took our time giving her support, with the school also doing the same. Her high school was amazing throughout the entire process. Remember being a teenager? Remember grade nine? Now add anxiety. Everything is bigger with anxiety. This was already pretty big and pretty horrible.
For those of you who didn’t read the original post about Instagram cyber bullying, here’s what happened. My daughter went into school one day to learn that someone had set up a fake Instagram account using her name and was targeting classmates leaving hurtful and awful comments, like: “Go die.” And “You look like a fat $%^&!.” So, essentially they had framed Payton into appearing as if she was bullying and being incredibly mean on Instagram. They also revealed the school she was at which is a huge safety faux pas that nobody in this house would ever make.
There were several reasons we were able to prove the account was fake. That part wasn’t hard.
But the emotional fallout from cyber bullying was hard. FOR ALL OF US. My husband didn’t understand it. My younger daughter vowed to find whoever had done this and punch them in the face. (not an approach I condone BUT I understand it.) And I was overwhelmed with how mean spirited someone had been. I cried a lot.
My daughter was new in that school. In fact we jumped systems entirely and switched to a different school board for high school. She worried people would think it really was her doing the mean commenting. She cried a lot, screamed and was angry someone could be so mean.
This is my girl who wears her heart on her sleeve and will still often say to me. “I don’t understand why people are so mean sometimes.” That’s a hard one to answer but usually the answer is some variation of: “When people are mean it is not your fault. It is no reflection on you.” She curled up in a ball on her bed that night and said something like I just want to die. That’s teen speak for I can’t handle this level of hideous mean spirited drama. That’s anxious for I am over my limit right now.
But we didn’t lay down and die. We got up and we marched out the door and kept going. With a lot of prodding, we encouraged Payton to go to martial arts that night. She’s a junior black belt and she enjoys mentoring little kids at martial arts. Meanwhile police, school board, myself and my Mom army of awesome worked behind the scenes to find the kid who did it and to shut the Instagram account down. That part worked out eventually. A girl confessed that it was her who set up the account eventually too. She was suspended for a day and given other various punishments. Her parents took her phone away for a bit. Her Mom was mortified as anyone would be. For what it’s worth it appeared that the other Mom also cried a lot over this Instagram bullying incident.
But this is not that story. This is what happened after. My daughter’s second reaction was to shut down her Instagram account. I stopped her from doing that and we talked it through. Why? Because Instagram is here to stay and so is social media.
Recently Time did a cover story stating – Your Kids Will Never Be Off Line. That might very well be true. So, better to teach our kids how to handle and manage all kinds of incidents related to social media. Payton decided to block a few more suspicious people. We talked about how to recognize suspicious accounts also. ( let’s face it if there’s a grade nine boy anywhere with 70,000 followers and he’s not a famous Youtuber, there’s something not right about the account.) and together we both talked about turning her own barely used account into nothing but positive messages. And @Payton_Schuck got a few new followers supporting the positive approach on her own authentic Instagram account.
Payton carried on with her play. She acts and sings in a local youth theatre troupe. That is her happy place. She once told me she can act out any emotional stuff and everyone accepts her there. And we kept talking about this incident. We eventually were able to sit in the same room with the Mom and daughter, a classmate who did this, at school and she apologized and answered my daughter’s questions. That was a hard day. The whole experience was nothing I would wish on anyone I know.
So what then? Well the kids share some classes together so eventually they were expected to return to class and be in the same room. My daughter handled that maturely. The first day that was expected to happen she told the vice principal she didn’t want to be in the same class with the child and they actually honoured that. They had the other child work somewhere else, clearly conveying the message that Payton was not to blame. She handled the entire experience maturely. But I’d be a liar if I said that wasn’t hard. She walked into school pretty upset most mornings. We talked a lot about what she was good at and what she had to look forward to. Her play ran slightly before Halloween and that gave her an outlet. Ironically the play had a strong bullying theme. That was powerful and her role was a bullied child called Boiyse. It was a great role and she rocked it.
About one month ago she got her first high school report card with straight A’s, other than in math, which is a subject she struggles a bit with and has supports written into her IEP for. She had great comments on her report card. She is enjoying all of her classes again and loving school.
Most days this high schooler bursts in the door telling me how awesome her day was. She joined a couple of clubs at school and she has really flourished. A few weeks ago, together we visited a local grade school and addressed a grade 7 and 8 class about Instagram bullying and cyber bullying and the impact the incident had. That was a hard talk. Payton wanted to do it, but the emotions were still very raw. The class was exceptional and empathetic and really struggled to understand why anyone would do something so mean. I enjoyed getting to talk to the kids about social media, and also reminding them to be safe on their gadgets.
So how is my daughter? It’s the question people keep asking me. She’s better than I ever expected her to be after something this malicious. She’s tough, and strong, and a really caring, sensitive, wonderful kid. Recently she did a career aptitude kind of survey and it stated she is suited to becoming a teacher, an early childhood educator, a veterinarian or a zookeeper. She is artistic, creative and dramatic. Right now she is looking forward to Christmas break. She loves to babysit. She is occasionally messy and moody, like most teenage girls on the planet.
Raising Strong People
I am super proud of this girl for not giving up, not laying down and dying just because someone was jealous or insecure or mean and thought they’d try to hurt her. She’s tougher than she knows. She is one of a kind, smart, funny, kind and beautiful, and I think that’s pretty awesome. She’s doing great. Thanks so much for asking!