Cyberbully to Punish Cyberbully?

Cyberbully BullyI just finished reading an interesting article about how the mother of a young girl found out that her daughter was engaged in online bullying of another girl. The mother then posted online a picture of the young girl holding up a sign admitting her actions and detailing her punishment (selling her iPod and donating the money to a Stop Bullying charity).

The article questioned the idea of punishing someone for a deed by inflicting that same misdeed to the transgressor. The girl bullied another girl over the internet and was now being punished by being bullied over the internet. I think it’s a conversation worth having.

Having no children myself, I know that I open myself up to second-guessing when looking into a topic like this but I’m willing to take the heat!

On one side we know that punishing wrong-doing is an important part of parenting. Certainly praising proper behavior is an extremely effective method of encouragement and should always be the biggest weapon in a parent’s arsenal. Still, there is no doubt that punishment is at times required.

On the other side is the idea that if we exhibit exactly the kind of behavior we are trying to stop our hypocrisy is painfully apparent to the person we are trying to correct. Not only is our punishment hypocritical but it is often completely counterproductive.

It is argued that such punishment is more about satisfying our own desire for control and vengeance than it is about rectifying the behavioral issues.

Study after study shows that children who are subject to violent punishment grow up to be abusers and violent criminals. There is absolutely no doubt about the correlation between child abuse and psychologically damaged adults who commit horrific crimes.

Let’s examine a stark example. Let’s say your child bites another child. Is biting your child an effective punishment? Does it teach them it’s perfectly okay to bite someone if you have power over them? Does it teach them not to bite?

But if we can’t punish a child for biting another child how will we stop the negative behavior?

It’s a dilemma. I would argue the answer is incorrect punishment exacerbates the problem that it tries to correct. That we must find correct punishment. Easy to say, certainly. Not easy to achieve, particularly in the heat of the moment.

Let’s look at the case in question. The girl used the internet to bully another girl. The parent tried to correct the problem by forcing the child to sell a possession, use the money garnered to support an anti-bullying cause, and post an embarrassing picture on the internet.

I would have suggested limiting use of the device used to commit the act, probably the computer. A personal apology to the girl in question. A few hours of volunteer time at an organization that helps combat such bullying. That being said, I don’t think the parent in this case was out-of-line. The punishment was designed around the issue and I think the daughter will be the better for it.

It was an interesting article. I think it is something every parent and society itself should keep in mind when meting out punishment for various crimes. We don’t want the result of our punishment to be that the person so disciplined becomes a worse human being.

Sorry to disappoint anyone looking for final solutions to complex issues. If you’re looking for easy answers, five-second fixes, and absolutes; well, you’ve come to the wrong place.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

2 thoughts on “Cyberbully to Punish Cyberbully?

  1. I heard about this too and had a similar thought. Your biting analogy says it all. Also, imagine the humiliation both girls are probably feeling now this is a news story. Why would the mother wish for her daughter to be publicly labelled as a bully? Yet, I have no answers either!

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