Doctor Love: Concerned Mother

Sunday, July 7th, 2019

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Dear Doctor Love,
I gave my daughter her first cell phone for her thirteenth birthday, and I laid down the rules for her being able to keep it. I told her I would be checking her texts, she was not allowed to use her phone at school, she was only allowed to use apps that I have approved and she was only allowed to spend a certain amount of money and time on it each month.
There haven’t been many times I’ve had to remind her of the rules, but the last three or four times I checked her texts, I saw some very nasty messages from a friend of hers. She was saying very mean things about another girl in their class, and they got worse with each text. In the last bunch of messages, the girl used language, I cannot even repeat, demanding that my daughter answer and agree with her. When my daughter finally answered, she agreed and even repeated the terrible accusations back to her friend.
I was shocked, and I explained to my daughter that this is how cyber-bullying starts and she should stop hanging around with this girl. My daughter said she is scared the girl will turn on her and start doing it to her if she doesn’t agree with her.
This girl comes to my house, and she is all sugar and spice. I see her mom often—she is a kind and generous woman. What should I do short of taking my daughter’s phone and punishing her for her friend’s behavior?
/s/Concerned Mother

Dear Concerned,
The early teen years are chaotic and confusing for young girls and can often be the staging grounds for a bully to become bolder and more aggressive. It is quite common in small groups for one child to assume a leadership position. Once established, that role can cross the line into bullying. It can and must be stopped, especially as now that your daughter has participated in cyber-shaming the poor girl. That said, taking your daughters’ phone or making her block her (questionable) friend may result in her becoming the target. Remove the fear of being the recipient of her friends’ venom by taking that responsibility off your daughter’s shoulders.
Seek out the girl’s mother and ask her to have coffee with you and take your daughter’s phone. Calmly show her the offending texts and join forces with her to stop this behavior. Ask her what the two of you can do together to help these two girls grow up in an environment free from this type of unnecessary stress.

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