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Did Cyber-Bullying Kill Phoebe Prince?

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School officials think so.

Phoebe Price

Last week, Phoebe Prince, a freshman at South Hadley High School in Massachusetts, killed herself. She'd enrolled in the high school in the fall after moving here from Ireland, and by many accounts, had been teased and bullied mercilessly.

School officials say Prince was cyber-bullied on Facebook and in text messages before she took her life. Even after her death, bullies posted rude messages on her Facebook memorial page. The comments had to be removed from the page.

South Hadley High Principal Daniel Smith sent out a letter to parents of students at the high school. He said Prince was "smart, charming, and as is the case with many teenagers, complicated . . . We will never know the specific reasons why she chose to take her life," reported.

Smith said the bullying often surrounded arguments about teen dating. In the letter to parents, dated Jan. 20, Smith wrote: "These disagreements centered on relationship/dating issues. School personnel immediately intervened . . . and both counseled and provided consequences as the situations required. It is what happened after those incidents were over that is cause for significant concern.''

This calls to mind the suicide of Megan Meier, the 13-year-old who committed suicide after being cyber-bullied by a friend's mom who had set up a fake MySpace account.

Cyber-bullying is becoming more and more prevalent, and it's imperative that you know how to protect your kids. Parents should become as savvy as possible about the Internet to understand what kids are doing online.

Make the whole family aware that cyber-bullying is wrong. According to Love Our Children USA, you should keep children's computers out in the open where you're able to keep an eye on the usage. Know your kids' log-in information and which websites they visit. This way, if something seems to be going wrong, you'll be aware and able to respond quicker.

Top 5 Steps to Take If You Believe Your Child Is Being Cyber-Bullied:

1. Keep the lines of communication open between you and your child. Your child needs to know you are there for her now.
2. File a complaint with the website in question.
3. Alert school officials to the situation. Encourage them to institute a school-wide no-bullying policy.
4. File a police report, or even a civil suit, against the cyber-bullies in question.
5. Be on the lookout for warning signs of depression. If your child becomes quiet or withdrawn, or doesn't want to go to school or to after-school activities, talk to a guidance counselor or school psychologist immediately.

Many children being victimized do not tell their parents, because they are afraid that parents getting involved will make the situation worse. The pain of cyber-bullying has been shown to have devastating effects, including suicide. Therefore, it is important for parents to know what is happening in their child's virtual world.

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