Online abuse and my children: A cautionary tale

Online abuse and my children: A cautionary tale

As a father of three active children, I’m no stranger to calls from school in the middle of the day.

They happen a lot, and for all different reasons. Lunchboxes left at home, bruises earned on the recess playground, and the occasional conference reminder hit my phone a few times a month. At the end of the last school year, I got a call from the school with a voice I didn’t recognize. It didn’t take me long to figure out this call wasn’t like the others.

The administrator on the other end of the line was struggling to find the appropriate words to describe to me what had happened. By the time he had gotten around to the point, it became clear I had missed a few options in my mental “worst case scenario” list.

Joking in real life, shaming online

A photo of my oldest daughter changing in the locker room at school had appeared on Instagram. Two puke emoji sat on either side of her, with some text mocking her for not having an ideal body. The account, which at the time only had the one photo on it, was specifically created for shaming girls at this middle school. The profile description made this clear, just in case including “exposing_bitches” in the account name wasn’t enough to get the point across.

By the end of the call, I was a whirlwind of emotions and could barely stand up. My daughter doesn’t have an Instagram account, and had not yet seen the photo. The only reason the school knew was a friend of hers had seen the photo and, knowing it was wrong, brought it to the guidance counselor. The school claimed to be conducting an investigation to figure out exactly what had happened, and in the meantime a request…

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