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Should Parents Be Fined or Jailed if Their Children Bully People?

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Analyzing why people do the things they do and how those things affect others is one of my favorite pastimes. I enjoy finding solutions.

Should society hold the parents of bullies accountable?

Should society hold the parents of bullies accountable?

Who Is to Blame When Children Bully?

Most children who bully learn this behavior after having been bullied themselves or after having witnessed somebody else bullying others. Before technology gave people the power to hurt others instantly without talking on a phone or confronting them in person, many bullies learned this behavior at home. Whether they were the victims of misguided disciplinary tactics or siblings who taunted them relentlessly, they imitated behaviors that felt normal to them. In some households, parents and siblings still bully members of their families. However, most parents and siblings have become more aware of how damaging their words and actions could be to their loved ones, making it less often that these behaviors are learned in the home. In addition, children with internet access witness other children and adults cyberbullying each other daily, making it more likely that children learn to bully people outside the home.

What if the Child Learns to Bully From the Parents?

Children learn to bully by observing or being the victim of other bullies. Sometimes those bullies are the child's own parents. Fining those parents for their children's behavior may put the child in danger of more severe punishment. It's unlikely that this would teach the child not to bully. More likely, it will make the child internalize their anger until they can release it on others who have less power over them.

Social media site owners need to better inform parents of the risks and dangers of internet access.

Social media site owners need to better inform parents of the risks and dangers of internet access.

Changes to Begin the Fight Against Bullying

The internet, with all its capabilities to connect people with other people across the world, came in like wildfire and nobody really knew what to expect. Most parents are only just beginning to learn how their children can be negatively influenced online. Therefore, the fault lies not so much with parents as it does with society in general. Social media site owners need to better inform parents of the risks and dangers of internet access. A static notice visible on every page accessed by the public should outline what steps to take when people are victimized by bullies or when they witness other people being cyberbullied. Adults need to be kinder to each other, especially, in the presence of children whether online or in person. Many adults cyberbully other adults online. If we must fine or jail anybody for bullying, wouldn't it be more effective to start with them? After all, they control their own actions and they are influencing the children.

Are Parents Being Bullied With Fines?

In an article by Carol Kuruvilla in the New York Daily News, the town of Monona, Wisconsin, began fining parents who had previously been made aware their child bullied someone if the child again bullied that person. The fine increases each time the child bullies that person. According to Ms. Kuruvilla, the ordinance defines bullying as "an intentional course of conduct which is reasonably likely to emotionally abuse, slander, threaten or intimidate another person and which serves no legitimate purpose."

By this definition alone, the ordinance to fine parents, as well as jail them, is an act of bullying. It's a way to threaten or intimidate parents into accepting responsibility and paying the consequences for an act they may not have contributed to nor had any control over. It's a way to slander them by branding them as bad parents for not stopping their child from acting without empathy. Fining or jailing parents does nothing to punish the bully. It does nothing to instill empathy in him or her. It does nothing to ensure that the bully will not repeat their behavior. Therefore, there is no legitimate purpose to fine or incarcerate parents.

Is There a Correlation Between Bullying and Puberty?

Bullying tends to be most prevalent during the years children commonly go through puberty. According to a study referenced in Health Psychology and Behavioral Medicine, a Finnish study found in girls that "very early puberty increased the risk of being a bully over threefold and for boys over twofold compared with peers with late puberty." In addition, the journal states that children going through puberty may become the victims of bullies because of the differences in their bodily changes.

Most parents in the United States have little knowledge or access to correspondence regarding puberty and how that phase might contribute to the possibility of their child becoming a bully or a victim of one. If this information was readily available to parents, perhaps through pamphlets in doctors' offices, parents might be more apt to discuss these issues with their children before they are in the throws of puberty. They might be able to recognize the signs of bullying and address it sooner.

What to Do When Children Refuse to Obey Rules

Many children experience a defiant stage, especially during puberty. Parents often try to instill morals and values in them which includes treating people with respect. However, with hormones going haywire and wrecking havoc on their emotions and moods, some children lash out at people trying to guide them. In this stage, many of them believe they can find their own way. Rules and advice given by parents take a back seat. As a result, they may bully someone against the demands of their parents. Parents might enlist the help of another adult the child admires or law enforcement to get their child to understand bullying hurts innocent people and it's unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

What Role Could Law Enforcement Play in Encouraging Bullies to Change Their Behavior?

Police officers often have to use coercion with criminals to safely get them to comply with their demands. However, bullies rarely cause a threat to people likely to stand up to them. In most instances, it's not necessary for police to be forceful or intimidating toward them. In fact, this type of behavior from the police would likely encourage more of that behavior from the bullies especially if their behavior is the result of somebody else treating them that way. While police officers should be firm, when bullies witness people of authority demonstrating empathy, they feel the strength behind it and may become more empathetic toward peers who are bullied.

Their punishment for a first offense might be for the bully to come to the police station after school every day for a week and clean the office or hand wash all the cars in their fleet. While the bully performs these chores, the officer could try to get to the bottom of why the perpetrator bullied the child. Many children feel interrogated when their parents ask them questions; however, they may answer more freely when other adults question them. With so many outside influences, a little help from people outside the home may be enough to encourage a bully to stop being mean to others.

How Should Parents React Upon Learning Their Child Bullied Someone?

Sometimes even the most well-behaved children try to show off in front of their peers by teasing or taunting another child. Their intention may be to test the level of control they could have over another person's feelings or actions. They may feel inadequate and mistakenly believe that bullying others will lift them up. A parent should not be too quick to dismiss an act of bullying. Some parents believe it's a natural part of growing up; however, for the person bullied it most likely was a traumatizing experience. It may have been another traumatizing experience on top of others the bullied suffered from other bullies. After verifying the accusation of bullying is true, a parent needs to administer appropriate discipline firmly and swiftly. The parent should show empathy for the bullied child so their child understands nobody deserves to be treated without it.

Should Children Have Texting and Unsupervised Internet Access?

Parents should refrain from allowing their children to have phones capable of texting and online access. If we're going to fine parents for not doing their jobs, maybe the ones who allow children to have these things should be fined. Most children are not mature enough to grasp the dangers and consequences they could face or cause to others through their correspondence.

Kids often have a stronger sense of being invincible and feeling like nothing bad will happen to them as a consequence of their behavior. In addition to the dangers they could get themselves into with strangers such as human trafficking or kidnapping, children text mean messages to or about their peers and post compromising photos of themselves that often cause them to become the target of bullies. A phone with only voice calling is a much safer alternative.

Parents should also monitor their children's internet access in the home by keeping a desktop computer in the living room or dining room so they can easily look in on what is being viewed or said to others. Too many children are committing suicide and finding themselves in other dangers for parents to ignore the dangers this access puts in their lives.

Does Fining Parents for Child Bullying Disproportionately Punish Poor People?

Here is a hypothetical: A single parent working two minimum wage jobs struggles to meet the bills. For that parent, a $170.00 fine might cover the gas and electric bill. Those services will be shut off if not paid. The reason they may not be able to get their child to obey could be because they're working all the time. They can't afford to pay more than minimum wage for childcare because that would defeat the purpose of working. Therefore, their childcare provider leaves much to be desired. In fact, the child may be learning their bullying behavior from the babysitter. When the parent doesn't pay the fine, a warrant goes out for their arrest and eventually this problem lands them in jail. Fines should never be an option for governments to use, especially when the person being fined has no control over the actions that brought on the fines. Punish the perpetrator by having them do community service. This approach makes it more equal to people of all social classes.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.