There’s not one of us who didn’t grow up facing some sort of bullying. Did I ever tell you about the girls who called my number in high school and hung up every half hour, for hours and hours into the night? (That was before caller ID.) Then there was the girl at summer camp who handed out birthday cake to every other girl in our bunk, and when she got to me, she looked right at me, threw my slice on the floor, and said, “oops…I guess yours fell.”
Some of it still stings, all these years later. And I can imagine you all have stories of your own. What I didn’t expect is how the pain comes back tenfold after we have kids of our own. Their pain is our pain.
However what our kids have now that most of us didn’t have when we were kids, is social media. This is both good and bad. Bullying definitely takes a new turn with the addition of technology; it’s one thing when your daughter feels left out of a birthday party, another when someone creates a fake Facebook page with her name, doxes her, or uses the anonymity of the web to abuse her emotionally.
It’s why we share info about apps like YikYak and Secret on Cool Mom Tech when we get wind of them.
On the other hand, before we all yell, BURN DOWN THE INTERNET, social media can be a remarkable, empowering tool to counteract the very same issues — something I try to remind myself of when I’m all BURN DOWN THE INTERNET. (Yes, I do it too.)
I was fortunate to interview Molly Ringwald recently at the Mom 2.0 Summit about raising kids today, and I loved her line that “it’s our job to teach kids to use social media tools with kindness and compassion…not cut them off from it.”
That’s the very reason I’m happy that there are campaigns out there like Bystander Revolution, launched by mom and author MacKenzie Bezos. And it’s one I think parents should know about it.
It’s becoming a substantial campaign — maybe you’ve seen the hashtag #itonlytakesone, in reference to the role we can all play in changing the game. It’s also a growing website bursting with hundreds of beautifully produced, short videos to help kids — and their parents — figure out ways to fight bullying through smart tactics, celebrity encouragement, and tools for personal empowerment.
The bite-sized videos are made for the for the YouTube generation. In each, a truly impressive roster of celebrities like Tom Brady, Demi Lovato, Kevin Spacey, Neil Gaiman, Michael J Fox, Salma Hayek, Elizabeth Banks, Melissa Joan Hart, Jared Leto, interspersed with regular kids, convey personal stories, encouragement, and actionable tips around counter-bullying tactics.
Check out dozens of videos that highlight aspects of 37 crowdsourced anti-bullying solutions which include:
I think that last one is the idea that really moves me most, and can have the greatest immediate impact. The viral Champions Against Bullying video that we featured on Cool Mom Picks demonstrates this premise just beautifully. If you haven’t seen it, please take a look.
We’ve all seen how even fully-formed adults are capable of shockingly shameful online behavior, so just think of what kids are capable of. That’s why I feel so passionate about Bystander Revolution, and really, all efforts to education and ideally eliminate bullying.
Even if your kids aren’t having any issues right now, I’d still recommend you sit down and watch a few videos with them. It’s really empowering to hear first-hand that their own idols, like Akon, Demi Lovato, Ansel Elgort, Nina Dobrev, Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin, or TV host and Fault in Our Stars author John Green, have gone through it too.
(They probably won’t relate to Jamie Lee Curtis or Kevin Spacey in the same way we do. Just saying.)
“What people who are bullying you online are saying? It’s not about you, it’s about them.” – John Green
Now I will say that some of the advice can be a little optimistic; a recent video about breaking the cycle of bullying describes how seeing the humanity of a bully is a helpful tactic for kids, which, yes it is. I talk to my kids at home about how the bullies at their school often have tough things going on in their lives. But I’m not sure that the advice to reach out to bullies directly to ask them if they’re okay will stop them in their tracks and change their lives. It could even come across as condescending, or backfire entirely. But that’s a very very small criticism with what is overall a fantastic campaign.
There’s lots of great info in here, that you can watch proactively, or just know it’s there later, should you ever need it. Which I hope you don’t. Maybe this is a small step toward raising a more compassionate generation of kids than ever before, and maybe our own generation can even learn from them.
As Neil Gaiman beautifully and emphatically puts it in one video, “There is no excuse for a culture of hate.”