THE BLOG
09/24/2013 03:44 pm ET | Updated Nov 19, 2013

When Cyberbullying Turns Into Cyber-Mobbing: Death By Suicide

Florida seems to be the stomping ground for bullying and cyberbullying and we should add a new term -- cyber-mobbing.

In Lakeland Florida, the tragic news of 12-year-old Rebecca Ann Sedwick quickly made national headlines. Rebecca Ann Sedwick jumped to her death in an apparent suicide. As the story unravels, it turns out that this young girl was not only the victim of one cyberbully, but of many.

Polk County Sheriff Judd has been vocal from the beginning of this investigation in saying that the school system and law enforcement are not to blame for this incident. Sheriff Judd (law enforcement and the school system) attempted to assist Rebecca Sedwick and her family with the harassment that she faced at school with kids that were bullying her. At one point her mother decided to change schools, and then tried to homeschool her.

Electronic bullying is another form of harassment that Rebecca Sedwick was forced to endure; however, it was not your average online bullying, it become a lynch-mob, what some would call cyber-mobbing.

What is cyber-mobbing? Cyber-cruelty that involves a group sharing the same malicious mindset or intent.

The authorities said that as many as 15 girls ganged up on 12-year-old Rebecca Ann Sedwick and teased her, bombarding her with online messages such as "You should die" and "Why don't you go kill yourself."

There is a cyberbullying law in Florida that Gov Scott recently signed. Sheriff Judd said if he determines that he has credible evidence against any child that may have been involved in this tragedy they plan on holding them criminally liable.

Sheriff Judd, Polk County, the State of Florida -- and our country -- we didn't need another wake-up call to remind us that words kill both emotionally and literally. Cyberbullying, with the extension of cyber-mobbing, can obviously lead to a deadly ending.


What can parents do to prevent this?

Stop believing it is not happening. It is common to hear that many people think it is always someone else's child -- it could never happen in their home. As parents in this digital age, we need to open our eyes to the reality that our kids' online lives need just as much scrutiny as their offline lives.

Did you know (according to PEW Research Study):

• 78% of teens now have a cell phone, and almost half (47%) of them own smartphones. That translates into 37% of all teens who have smartphones, up from just 23% in 2011.
• 23% of teens have a tablet computer, a level comparable to the general adult population.
• 95% of teens use the Internet.
• 93% of teens have a computer or have access to one at home.

That is a lot of cyber-life which could potentially lead to cyber-mobbing.

Communication is key, yet sometimes so difficult. Let's face it; talking to our kids today can be like speaking to a brick wall.

The risks are too high not to break down that wall and learn all you can about social media and your child's online and offline life. Create that cyber-shield of parenting.

Cyberbullying Research Center offers some excellent questions for parents to ask their children to find out more about their cyber-life and raise cyber-bullying prevention.

Here are three examples of their questions:

• Does cyberbullying happen a lot? Would you feel comfortable telling me if you were being cyberbullied?
• Do you feel like your friends would be supportive of you if you told them you were being cyberbullied?
• Have you ever had to delete a post or comment on your page that was written by someone else?

Make an action plan in your community!

Start anti-bullying campaigns in your schools, neighborhoods, and communities.

Recently, a California school district has implemented social media monitoring. Is this something that you believe your school district would benefit from?

Let's all be social media mentors and role models. Peer-to-peer mentoring is something we can all benefit from. Whether you are a sibling-mentor or a friend-mentor, if you see someone in cyberspace that is struggling, reach out and be that upstanding cyber-friend. Parents and teachers are not the only social media roles models, kids should be encouraged to take the opportunity to mentor other kids too!

Whether you are 15 or 50, someone is watching you online (and off for that matter). Use your keystrokes with respect. Every tap of the keypad, every click of the mouse, is a stroke into cyberspace that can have a real-life effect on you or someone else. Make it a positive imprint.

Takeaway tips:

• Talk, talk, talk -- you can never unplug enough to have face-to-face time with your kids. Chat about what they are doing in their cyber-life and learn about their social media habits.
• Monitoring verses snooping: Find the balance, and remember when safety trumps privacy, you are their parent first. Be CyberWise, you won't regret it!
• Start small: #TakeNoBullies and make a promise to stand against bullying with your family and friends. If you are hurting, if even the smallest of words has hurt you, you need to share it with a friend or family member. You are never alone and you will never be judged on your feelings.
• There is no rewind on the Internet: The old cliché, think before you post. But did you already post something you regret? Do all you can to make it right.

We don't need any more wakeup calls. Take cyberbullying and cyber-mobbing seriously -- kids are dying.