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NOT Harry and Louise

Once again, it’s time for FishbowlDC’s advice column, NOT Harry and Louise. Since Washingtonian thought it was appropriate to give Harry Jaffe and his wife, Louise, an advice column, we figure we can have one too. So, each week, we’ll take questions that are submitted to their advice column and kindly offer our own spin — for their benefit as much as ours. Because if THEY’RE qualified to have an advice column, WE’RE qualified to have an advice column. So, here’s this week’s question from Worried in Wheaton:

Dear Harry and Louise:

My daughter attends a small private school in the Washington suburbs. It purports to be a community where the feelings and health of each student are nurtured. My daughter, who is in fifth grade, started coming home from school sad a few weeks ago. She would go up to her room, close the door, get on her computer, and stay there until dinner. Then she would return after dinner. When I asked why she stopped joining the family to chat or watch TV, she said she was doing homework.

Last week, after my daughter went to school, I checked her computer. Turns out she was g-chatting all afternoon and night. The conversations revealed a number of nasty exchanges among students. Many of the mean comments were directed at my daughter. Now I know why she was sad—dare I say depressed.

Should I have checked her computer? Can I do anything to help her? Is this bullying, and is the school responsible?

Wow. OK, this is a sticky situation….

We recall being that age. We would come home from school and would rush up to our rooms to dodge family time, too. Granted, we were smoking dope and staring at Dad’s collection of “Snatch” magazine, but still..  We can relate.

On a serious note, we aren’t really sure when bullying became such a problem. We could go all Abe Simpson on you and say that it’s the internet and technology dragging down a good and decent society, but maybe it’s more than that. Maybe parents should be going all “Big Brother” and checking up on their children’s computers.  Your child will probably not appreciate the intrusion. Hell, I still reject my mother’s weekly friend request on Facebook. The big picture here is that bullying is thriving in today’s society because the privacy of the internet allows it and parents being too afraid to get involved. Go on their computer. Address every rumor and nasty utterance by bringing all of it into the light where bullies can’t hide. Mix this with a healthy dose of unconditional love and support for your spawn, and it will go a long way in guiding that ship through the rocky teenage years.

But, what do we know? We aren’t seasoned advice columnists like Jaffe and his wife, Louise. What did they say?

Let’s start with Harry.

“Yes, you should have checked your daughter’s computer. …when a child expresses distress, and you suspect it involves social media, I believe checking a computer falls into the category of parental responsibility.”

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that Harry and I agree on this 100%. Let’s read Louise’s response while I recover from the shock.

“She is in the fifth grade…You can have all the freedom you like, but I will always have your password, and I can check your computer at any time.”

A three-peat! We ALL agree. Louise goes on to say that maybe parents should ban electronic devices from their children’s bedrooms, which we aren’t really ready to commit to. How would our children be able to unwind from the stresses of TV, computers and modern society without a round of Angry Birds before bed?

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