A riveting op-ed by KJ Dell’Antonia in The New York Times yesterday still has me thinking. The piece, questioning whether or not parents should face criminal charges if their teenager is a bully, describes the recent suicide of a teenage girl who was endlessly harassed and cyber bullied by two of her female classmates.
So is poor parenting to blame for the bullies’ actions, which ultimately led to another’s suicide? I’m not going to lie. I’m on the fence, people.
The sheriff appointed to the case above expressed his desire to arrest the parents of one of the bullies, saying “If I could, they would already be in jail. But I can tell you this, that we’re keeping our options open.”
Why? Because the bully in question promptly posted to Facebook after the suicide that she “didn’t care” about the girl’s death. The same girl later claimed her computer was hacked and that she didn’t write that post— and, of course, her parents backed her story. “When the parents don’t take care of the children and it becomes criminal conduct, then it becomes my responsibility, and my deputies and I know how to take control,” the sheriff said.
While I do believe that parents have a responsibility to monitor their children’s behavior, I also know that keeping tabs on every move a teenager makes is not something that comes easily or well-received. Parents are expected to raise their children with respect for others and to teach them that harassment comes with consequences, but when does the responsibility transition from the parent to the child? Is lack of supervision, potentially lying and condoning bad behavior “criminal conduct”? I firmly believe that some people are just bad, and that not even the best parenting can keep them from making decisions that hurt others.
At the end of the day, I don’t know whether parents should be held responsible for the horrible actions of their children. The only thing I’m sure of is that this type of story makes me scared to one day be a parent. But I want to know how you feel…
Do you think parents should face arrest if their kid is a bully?
Vote in our poll below and then from 4:30-5:00 p.m. ET, @TheFrisky will be discussing the question and poll results on Twitter. Be sure to join in on the convo and use the hashtag #ThisOrThat. See you then!