It’s a topic with many differing viewpoints, and can be looked at from a range of perspectives, but the same question remains with the problem of teenage cyber bullying; can parents of teenagers using the internet to abuse and harass others be held at all responsible for their child’s actions? In this day and age, its near enough impossible for a parent to know what their child is doing every time they are online, with so many different social networking sites available. It therefore begs the question of how parents can monitor their child’s online presence without infringing on their privacy which may push their child away.

When it comes to cyber bullying, a term commonly known for its frequency in the news and media today, with increasing numbers of teenagers in the news committing suicide over internet bullying, parent’s responsibility and accountability for their child’s movements poses an interesting argument. On one hand, it can be contended that when it comes to a teenager using the internet, who is still technically a child, under the care and guardianship of their parents, a parent should be aware of what their child is getting up to on the web, making sure that they are using the internet for a positive purpose and not using any sites that could potentially put their child in danger. It could be said that a child’s behaviour is seen as a reflection on their parents and the upbringing they have had, so when a child is using the internet for a negative purpose, to taunt, tease and harass another child, is it reasonable for parents to take the blow? Tina Meier, mother of Megan Meier, a thirteen year old teenager who committed suicide after being bulled via MySpace voiced her opinion, stating; “is it important for us to hold parents accountable for their children’s actions? “Yes. But it’s impossible for parents to be there 24 hours a day.”

On the other hand, it could be disputed that a child’s online behaviour should bear no reflection on the parents. The rights to privacy and the ability to use the internet freely can be out of the control of parents, as how can a parent be expected to watch over what their child does online every minute they are using the internet? In some cases, it’s just not feasible. Similarly, it can be argued that the way a child behaves can’t be blamed on the parents of their child, as parents can’t possibly govern their child 24 hours a day, making sure they are acting appropriately. Casey M, a 17 year old cyber bullying advocate from New York said that “the more that parents try to control what their kids are doing online, the more sneaky kids get, and the less parents know what their kids are doing online”.

It’s easy to judge a parent on the way their child behaves, but what has to be considered is how far a parent can go when it comes to monitoring their child’s online profiles and presence. When you were a teenager, would you have been happy for your guardians to watch over what you were doing online?

It’s a tricky and sensitive subject, especially with teenagers who use the internet to bully others when they are still under the care of their parents, and still technically a child. With regards to laws and punishment, would it be ethical to enforce a law punishing parents when their child is a perpetrator of cyber bullying? This is an interesting question and could spark many more debates on the topic.

What are your thoughts? Feel free to comment below, any input would be greatly appreciated.