Whoa, What Are You Doing?

After my post went up at I Survived The Mean Girls, I learned that Anderson Cooper had run a television special devoted to bullying awareness and prevention called Bullying: It Stops Here.

The special aired from Rutgers University about one year after freshman Tyler Clementi’s suicide. Clementi killed himself by jumping off the George Washington Bridge after a recording of him having a sexual encounter with another man was posted online.

Cooper has been a strong opponent of bullying. He has spent a lot of time on his show and on other programs speaking out about the suicides among young men and women that were done in response to years of being bullied.

If you can, watch all four parts of Cooper’s video clips below.

Watch with your kids.

Cooper asks students to take a pledge to speak out against bullying.

Because studies show that if even one person speaks up and points out the behavior, bullies are likely to stop doing what they are doing.

All it takes is one person to say, “Whoa, what are you doing?!” or “Hey, that’s really mean!”

As usual, it is silence that is deadly.

And cyber-bullying is a disaster.

Because once words and images go viral, there is no escape for the target.

Only torment and embarrassment and shame.

It’s time to stop using our technology to hurt.

How do we teach our children to stand up against the bullies? How do we get them to risk everything to protect someone else? How do we get them to make better choices? How do we move toward civility and tolerance?

If you have a child who has been bullied, or a child who is complaining about feeling like a bystander (which is how many of us feel during our middle and high school years), please check out I Survived The Mean Girls, which offers a supportive community for people who have been bullied or who have witnessed bullying.

20 responses to “Whoa, What Are You Doing?

  1. Your and Kelly’s posts are so timely. We are dealing (today) with a mean kind on the bus problem. It’s escalating rapidly and just breaks my heart. Thank you – I’ll share.

    • I know the bus can be a disaster. I also know that is why so many parents drive their children to school instead of having them take the buses. I am thinking about you and your kids. The bus should not be a place to torture other people, but alas — the bus, the playground, the bathroom and the internet — those have become the places where there just isn’t any civility.

      It’s like Lord of the Flies.

  2. Good for you for writing such a timely post! Every little bit helps. Although this is certainly an epidemic, I can tell you the schools my kids are in are 100 x better at monitoring this kind of stuff than my schools were as a kid. I think people are finally taking notice and taking this seriously.

    • Steve:

      It’s interesting to me that you think things are better.

      I suppose it depends on where you go to school. And who is at the helm.

      I think even within my own district, there is great disparity about how bullying is handled within each school.

      When my son was bullied in elementary school — relentlessly, daily — I had to demand an intervention, get very proactive, and pretty aggressive. And the new technologies (texting/social media) makes everything so much more complicated. Kids can never escape.

      I think I have the only 12 year old in the world without a cell phone, without a FB account. I’m trying to keep him off of it for as long as possible.

  3. I talk about this stuff with my students. Before the internet age kids could at least escape into their homes or somewhere in the evenings. With social media and phones and images everywhere there’s no escaping the mental torture 24/7. Awareness is definitely key.

    • This semester my awesome batch of students has just started working on research papers on civility and how things have changed because of our modern inventions/contraptions/behaviors/attitudes. It should be interesting to read them.

      There are, of course benefits to modern technology. With cell phones, we can connect with people who live far away more easily… but, on the flip side, we can connect to everyone about everything more easily.

      And people don’t always think before they press ENTER.

      Or SEND.

      And we know that teens aren’t always thinking rationally. Rational thought is not a strong suit when one is a teen. And, of course, we have delayed adulthood.

      So.

  4. It is ironic.

    Many times I have thought of how with social media, the Mean Girls would’ve been much worse.

    But the “invention” of the internet is part of what helped pull me out of my depression. Online I could find people who didn’t go to my school. I could connect with someone on their common interests. I could make friends.

    It’s part of why I started the I Survived the Mean Girls blog. After writing about just one of my experiences, I had comments from so many people who had suffered as I had.

    But at the time, I had thought I was one of the few. What was wrong with me? Why do they hate me?

    Learning I wasn’t alone, that these amazing people had also been targeted, I felt better – even though over 20 years had passed since the worse of it.

    Thank you for passing on the blog.

    Most of my submissions have been from adults so far, but I welcome them from any age. They can have the person’s name and a blog link, or be anonymous.

    I dread my children going to “real” school for this very reason.

    And pray if my kamikaze, doesn’t-think-before-he-does-something son ever participates in bullying, or my devilish Diva goes Mean Girl someone speaks up.

    I hope they will have the courage to tell me if someone bullies them. Because I know, even though I loved my mother, I didn’t talk about my experiences – because mine wasn’t outright bullying, so much as ostracism from my former group of friends.

    Anyway, thank you.

    • Kelly:

      You are right about the Internet being a great source of support as well.

      As I said, it can be that, too.

      I think your Mean Girls blog is awesome. And someone even offered to write something.

      I think the bigger issue — really — is the gray area: what to do with the bystanders? The folks on the sidelines? Because they really are the ones who can influence this behavior.

      I don’t want to teach kids to walk away from conflict. I want to teach kids to say, “Dude! Think about what you are doing!” But in reality, in order to do that, you have to be pretty confident of where you are in the pecking order.

      It’s a toughie. And I could go on about this forever but our television programming during family hour model a lot of not so nice behavior. And we all watch it. Together. It’s kind of insidious.

  5. These are questions I struggle with daily. I was often merciless with my younger siblings in childhood, a fact that haunts me despite the fact the behavior has long since ceased and been forgiven. I was also silent when I wish I’d spoken, and I can say that the pain of that is much worse than the discomfort that has ensued when I’ve spoken up.

    Each of my siblings lost a friend to suicide. Each of my siblings was bullied. Kids said and did cruel things to me until my muscles reached “hurkin'” status, but I decided earlier that their taunts–usually related to my weird hand-me-down clothing–either meant that they were assholes or something was wrong with me. When I was younger, I opted to believe the former, and it’s helped me a great deal.

    I no longer boil it down so simply as I did then. There’s a lot of learned behavior reflected in those taunts, and I think a lot of hurt that goes into trying to feel better about oneself by making someone else feel worse. But I do say something, even if it’s just, “What are you trying to accomplish?” Those are some of my most favorite words these days. They’re not an accusation or a slight. Just a simple question to hopefully (a) stop hurtful behavior in its tracks and (b) make their recipient wonder, indeed, what they’re trying to accomplish.

    Reading through my old journals recently was largely a fabulous experience, but there was one encounter that was horrible to read. My mom took my youngest sister on the annual 5th grade camping trip, only to discover a group of girls taunting and bullying my sister right in front of their smiling moms. My mom talked to the moms first, then went directly to the children when she realized the moms weren’t going to say anything. She, too, called on the fact that each of my siblings lost a friend to suicide. “Do you want to be the cause of that?”

    I suppose I could say I’ll try to emulate my mom’s actions, both when she confronted aggressors and when she asked us to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before we teased them.

    • “What are you trying to accomplish?”

      I love that!

      As far as that 5th grade camping trip goes, you know what they say: Apples don’t fall from pear trees. I cannot tell you how many times I have watched parents stand by and smile while their children are being downright cruel.

      On one level, I do not understand that. At all. But then, I remember people are human and everyone has his or her weaknesses.

      Not everyone has the big mouth that I have. Or the mighty fingers.😉

  6. It would be so hard to be that one kid saying, “Whoa! What are you doing?”

    Because you risk turning the attention your way.

    I’d like to think parents could teach their children to NOT bully in the first place so there would be no need for a lone, brave child/teen/adult to take a stand.

    For the life of me, I do not understand ACTIVELY tormenting another human being.

    I just don’t.

    I can’t help wondering what goes on in the homes of real bullies; what motivates their cruelty.

    I’m not talking about the bystanders who say nothing. That I can understand. Sad as it is.

    But the REAL bullies.

    Why?
    What is happening to them?

    • Well, since I was on the receiving end of some physical stuff ONE time — I can tell you (because the person explained her behavior to me on Facebook), she had a lot going on.

      She was being abused, emotionally and physically.

      She was wrestling with her sexuality. She knew she was gay, but didn’t know what to do with her feelings.

      She was poor.

      She wasn’t getting good grades, and she got int trouble for that.

      That, in my mind, is a recipe for disaster.

      So that is why she slammed my head in a locker.

      And it’s why she doesn’t remember doing it.

      She was operating on auto-pilot. She was in survival mode.

      I’m not saying “Boo-hoo, those poor bullies.”

      More yes… those bullies, they need help, too.

      They really do.

      Because something is definitely going on.

  7. most of the cyber-bullying in town occurs between 10 pm-4 am. I’m not sure why this time frame couldn’t be stopped…

  8. Bullying in Miami schools is beyond mere bullying. It’s thuggery and there’s a weapon close at hand. No cyber stuff here. It means a real beating.

  9. Bullying is a topic that is very important to me…and yes, keeping discussions going about it is vital because it won’t get better until we recognize it in its many forms and call bullies out. Schools must have an effective way to report harassment by both the victim and witnesses. Parents and teachers must help students to learn how to be allies when they see bullying!

    • The problem is most adults don’t see the subtle forms of bullying. Especially the way girls do it. I always say girls do it the way the elephants from Dumbo did it. WHen Dumbo was born, the momma elephants gossiped and they just kind of closed the circle so that Mrs. Dumbo couldn’t get in.

      Walt Disney understood this dynamic.

      From the outside, it doesn’t look like much, but it is.

      Being the outcast, the ignored one, can be just as awful as being the one punched in the stomach in the hall.

      Cruelty takes on many forms.

  10. My granddaughter was bullied at school by a boy where he pushed her several times and kicked her stomach, and my granddaughter defended herself and pushed him. The principal didn’t think my granddaughter was supposed to defend herself.

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