Meet seventh grader, John Paul. After being bullied at school and trying to handle the situation himself, he was brave enough to tell his school administration and parents what was going on. Since beginning middle school, he has even started his own bullying support group – how admirable! Keep your head up, John Paul. You are stronger than you think! :)
My name is John Paul and I’m am in the seventh grade now. It all started in the forth grade. I got called faggot and gay every single day. Everytime I was called that I used to hold it in and never tell administration or tell the bullies back anything. Fifth grade year I thought the bullying was going to end, but it didn’t. I was still called gay and faggot, but this time I told administration and some of it stopped. I never told my parents that it was going on until the summer, when it finally came out. I left grade school and went on to middle school. I was looking forward to a new fresh year, but there was still bullying going on. Me and a group of friends started a program at our school called “The Bullying Program.” It didn’t last long though. Seventh grade year (the grade I’m in now) the bullying is still going on but, I’m counting on staying strong and never giving up. I’m going to mail a letter to one of my senators and maybe a bill can be passed where bullying is banned forever. Stay strong.
Have you heard about the cyberbullying documentary, Submit the Documentary? Unlike other bullying-focused documentaries that have come out recently, Submit the Documentary focuses on cyberbullying and real problems affiliated with cyberbullying. When the opportunity arose, I was incredibly excited to review the film on MyKindnessCounts.com.
For many years, the topic of cyberbullying in its entirety is one that I have found incredibly difficult to understand and at times, frustrating. The Internet often seems like an entirely different world from the one we live in. It is somewhat unpatrolled and where anonymity can be extremely prevalent. As Mary Kay Hoal, founder of Yoursphere.com, says in Submit, “If what was happening online was happening in the real world, people would be marching. There would be social change.”
With 52% of our American youth reporting being cyberbullied from 2011-2012 (Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Health and Human Services, Cyberbullying Research Center), cyberbullying is not an issue that we can afford to dismiss. From watching the film, I feel more at ease knowing that the creators of Submit are intently aware of this and have spent the past few years talking to experts in the field, as well as families and children, gathering data, and constructing an incredibly well made and informative documentary. Submit the Documentary is a film specifically designed to inform the country of how detrimental the effects of cyberbullying can be on children and families.
As Submit points out, cyberbullying elicits behaviors meant to humiliate, torment, and socially exclude from behind some sort of electronic communication technology (Mishna, Saini, & Solomon, 2009). The documentary does an excellent job of highlighting why this is a problem and also how detrimental such behaviors can be for youth – the very people who use technology the most. As we learn from Dr. Robin Kowalski, Professor of Psychology at Clemson University, emotional bullying can create emotional baggage that kids take with them over time. This emotional baggage can manifest itself into depression, anxiety, school absences, physical sympotomology, and heightened self-esteem issues.
Cyberbullying is complicated and this theme is prevalent throughout Submit. Quite simply, cyberbullying is an emotionally charged topic for parents as much as it is for kids. Teens are often hesitant to report cyberbullying to their parents in fear that parents will overreact, or take their cell phones and computers away. Teenagers would rather endure the harassment than be on the outs of their social networking world. Dr. Sameer Hinduja, Associate Professor of Florida Atlantic University and the Co-Director of The Cyberbullying Research Center, explains that in his research he has found that many teens being cyberbullied feel alone and lonely, and are consequently desperate for attention, affection, affirmation, and validation. In order to obtain these things, teens are online and text messaging all hours of the day because being online provides them with this instant gratification. Conversely, if a child does tell their parents they are being bullied, parents are often unsure of where to turn to. Schools often feel they do not have adequate resources to help a problem that begins outside of school. Law enforcement agents feel overwhelmed by “bigger societal problems”, and as pointed out in the film, lawyers are hesitant to take cases where one child is against another, except in situations where violence has occurred, or the media has gotten involved.
As a viewer, the burning question I had while watching the film was, “Well, what can we do?” The makers of Submit provide both suggestions and the opinions of numerous experts in the field. I highly encourage everyone to see Submit the Documentary. Not only is the content important, but the film does an outstanding job of breaking down why cyberbullying is complicated, what the experts know, and how we can better handle how cyberbullying is affecting youth. In order to support Submit and cyberbullying awareness, please go to their website, Facebook page, and Twitter account.
Thankfully the expression “That’s so gay” is not one that I personally hear often. As I’ve grown older, people in my social circle don’t tend to use it because it sounds bad and it’s disrespectful. However, I am aware that it’s a phrase many of you probably hear a lot. I definitely heard it a lot more in high school and college, along with “No homo” and “Don’t be a fag”. Each three of these expressions make me wince – they’re just so incredibly offensive. What’s interesting is that “That’s so gay” is probably used with the least negative intentions, right? Young people use it all the time and if you call them on it, their response is usually something like, “But I didn’t say anything bad about gay people.” Ehh, well let’s see – what were you implying? Something is dumb or stupid? Something was less than adequate to your liking?
Choate Rosemary Hall is a private high school in Connecticut, right near where I grew up. The students and faculty put together this video with the purpose of saying a. It’s ok to be gay at Choate and b. Don’t say, “That’s so gay”. If you want to dislike something, fine – just use a better word to describe your feelings. Using the term, “That’s so gay” not only doesn’t make sense, it’s also offending people in your community. Find a different word.
I often think about bullying prevention and intervention programs and why these programs don’t see high success rates over time. I don’t think it’s necessarily surprising. It’s hard to create a program that will be successful across different groups of people. I always go back to the idea that we need strong role models kids can look up to. We need to have well-known organizations and leaders show their support for equality. I like to believe that if organizations and leaders do this, over time, messages of equality will become the accepted norm.
My thoughts on this topic stem from the most recent Boy Scouts of America controversy. There has been talk that the Boy Scouts may be reversing their ban on gay members. The NY Times actually had a really great article on the topic last week, which you can find here. Wouldn’t this be a massive step in the right direction? Continuing discrimination against a group of humans will not stop LGBT bullying and harassment. Ellen DeGeneres had a fantastic monologue on the Boy Scouts the other day that I had to share.
I believe that if the Boy Scouts are going to continue to be leaders in this country, they should be responsible for promoting equality and condemning discrimination. Stand up for your fellow man and neighbor, regardless of their sexual/gender identity. A person is a person. A man is a man. A neighbor is a neighbor.
Let us keep Jesse Jeffers in our thoughts. Upon arriving home on February 3rd, this teenager from Florida found his residence covered in spray-painted hateful, anti-gay vandalism. Fearful of future attacks, Jesse has now moved in with his mother for the time being.
Jesse has faced anti-gay harassment since middle school. He told news reporters that he has tried to ignore it, but this time it seems as though the harassment went too far. Luckily for Jesse, a church and other members of the community have offered to help Jesse clean off the spray-paint.
There is absolutely no excuse for hate crimes or discrimination. This shouldn’t even need to be stated. No one should be ashamed of who they are and a teenager certainly should not be afraid to return home because of a heinous hate crime. Jesse, hang in there.
My name is Eduardo. I am 14 years old. & this is my story. I’m good at faking a smile & pretending that I’m ok. I was 8 years old when it started. At first it wasn’t that hurtful. They just called me “Four eyes” & stuff. Once 3rd grade year finished, my family & I moved to Houston, Texas. It was really amazing! But school wasn’t. I was the new kid who didn’t have any friends. I really didn’t have anyone to talk to during lunch. One day, a teacher called me a “chicken” for not wanting to participate in singing. That teacher didn’t know is that I was shy. REALLY shy. After she called me “chicken” some girl started calling me the same name. Then after one month living in Texas, my parents decided to move back to California. Again, a new school. But this new school was WAY better than the other two schools. I really didn’t get bullied in this school. 2 years went by where I didn’t get bullied. But then middle school came along. 6th grade was the worse year EVER. Everyday I was bullied by this kid. Whenever he saw me, he kicked me, tried to trip me, pushed me, & called me names. I remember when my English teacher changed the sitting arrangement & she sat me in the worse sit ever. I was sitting in front of my bully. When the teacher wasn’t looking, he would kick me. That is how cowardly he was. I was afraid to tell any teacher because I thought it would only get worse. I stayed strong that entire year. Once 6th grade ended, 7th grade came along. At first, I thought it was going to be an awesome year because I had new classmates! But I was wrong. One day, a guy called me a horrible name (I’m not going to say the name they called me.). Then his 2 other friends started calling me that same name.
In the past, I would go home where I could just be happier than at school, not until my parents started to fight a lot. Then came that day, when my mom found out my dad was cheating. My dad then left the house, but still visited & stuff. I always thought “Why does this happen to me? Why coudn’t happen to someone else?” I just couldn’t take it anymore & one day I was in my room. I was thinking a lot. I cried & I just felt that if I died no one would care. I told my parents about this & they helped me. I was 12 years old when this happened.
After that day, I decided that it was time to stand up for myself. I wrote a letter to my teacher that I trusted the most. I wrote her a letter because I was going to cry in front of her & I just didn’t want that. So, in the letter I told her what was going on. I gave her the letter in the morning, then in the afternoon she talked to the bully. I remember her saying to the bully “How DARE you tell him that?” After that day, I never got bullied in the 7th grade. I was so grateful that I had her as a teacher. She was truly an amazing teacher.
During summer vacation, I did something that I will NEVER regret. I created this account on September 2, 2011. When summer vacation ended, I went back to school. It was my 8th grade year. My last year of middle school. This year was really bad for me. I was having bad grades, some girl told me that I created fake accounts on twitter to follow myself, & my parents were still fighting. Then one day, I just had a horrible day at school & after school I was determined to cut myself. I just wanted to have friends & someone to talk to. While I was walking to my house (determined to self harm) I heard the most amazing song called “Skyscraper” by Demi Lovato. When I heard this song for the first time, I cried because It was something that I could relate to.Hearing this song made & still makes me feel good about myself. It gives me hope. I always imagine singing this song to my bullies. One day, a kid from school posted on my Facebook wall saying “I hate you” ,”Go get friends.” Then at the end he told me, “I’m just bored. That’s why I’m doing this.” What he doesn’t know is that those word hurt.
During those dark days, I just wanted someone to be there for me. Someone I could talk to. Because of my bullies, I felt insecure about myself. Sometimes I still feel insecure. But now, I realize that their words shouldn’t mean anything to me & that the bad things that have happened to me have only made me stronger. I have stayed strong for a long time & I keep staying strong. I know that the bad things that have happened to me, are the things that made me stronger. On June 15, 2012 I graduated from middle school. Then, in August I’m entering high school! I am nervous to enter high school. I hope I meet good people & I don’t have bullies in my life. Anyways, I am sharing my story because if there’s anyone that is struggling with the issues that I went through, to let them know that they are NOT alone. Suicide & self harming are not the answers to your problems! Please Stay Strong<3 & know that it WILL get better! One day. I just want to thank Demi Lovato, Ellen Degeneres, Kelly Clarkson, Shane Dawson, Bree Essrig, & my followers for helping me & making me smile!
Meet Ryan Nixon, a 21 year old student from the UK who started the increasingly popular Facebook group, Bullying by Social Networking Awareness. Just started last October, the group already has nearly 3,000 members.
Taken from the group’s About page,
“BSNA’s aims are to support victims of cyber-bullying by: creating a forum for expression and connection for those afflicted; cultivating self-esteem in those affected; propagating awareness of the topic; and ultimately to elicit a positive response from the relevant parties.”
Before the holidays, I had emailed Ryan because I was interested in how and why he started such a fast-growing group. While I had been a member of the BSNA for some time, Ryan had posted a video on the group’s Facebook page which featured him talking to a round table of bullying experts in Northern Ireland about the need for bullying awareness and why he felt it was necessary to start an action group. I was blown away by Ryan’s humbleness and poise and wanted to know more about him.
Upon emailing Ryan, he sent me the kindest email back explaining how his own experiences with childhood trauma and being relentlessly bullied were the main inspirations behind his interest in bullying and anti-bullying awareness. As for the group he created, Ryan was specifically inspired by Amanda Todd’s story, which he explains here:
“I set up Bullying by Social Networking Awareness in response to Amanda Todd. Amanda’s story broke me as it was so sad. I thought at the beginning that 30-50 people would have joined by now however, it has exploded. I am really happy to help people because there wasn’t a service available for me when I was going through the pain. The response has been amazing and I think it is my time to do something to help prevent it. I do believe everything happens for a reason, this is my reason.”
I think one of the main reasons I am drawn to Ryan’s story is because of how honest and compassionate he has been with regard to how personal experiences have shaped his current engagements and the way he is choosing to live his life. I just think the world of him and all the good he is sharing with the world.
Please click here to find the Bullying by Social Networking Awareness Facebook group.
Please click here to following the Bullying by Social Networking Awareness group on Twitter.
Hi, I'm Jessica! The mission of My Kindness Counts is to encourage young people from around the nation to work together to brainstorm better, more positive ways to address bullying in our communities. Interested in sharing what you're doing to help others? Send me an email!Follow @Kindness_Counts