Pamela, a 16-year-old from Los Angeles, was bullied all through middle school.
They'd corner me in the locker room, and call me names... fat, ugly, the b-word... they'd say, what are you doing here, no one wants you. At one point it got to me and I would cut my wrist, thinking one day I'd have the courage to cut through the veins... and I didn't know who to talk to because no one would want to be with me because they were afraid of being bullied like I was... I told the teachers and they would just say to ignore them, as if I wasn't trying to already.
As a parent, it's hard to hear words like these coming out of a child's mouth. But when it's your child who is speaking them, it can be life-altering. Those who have dealt with bullying in their lives know firsthand how isolating, frightening and self-esteem-crushing an experience like this can be.
Kids in the House wants to #EndBullying. We're not naïve; we realize that kids will be kids, and playground politics are a part of childhood. But bullying today goes far beyond what we may have experienced in our school days -- our kids continue to be bullied even after they've left the playground, even when they are far from the bully's physical reach.
Between texting, Facebook, chat rooms and social media apps, children today are constantly connecting with their peers. This gives bullies the opportunity to harass their targets in a myriad of new, creative ways. Complicating things further, the anonymous nature of many social media platforms renders it impossible to know who your tormenter even is.
"There are four different types of bullying," says Joel Haber, PhD, a psychologist and bullying expert.
The most common type that we all know about is physical bullying. It´s the kind we all grew up with where kids push each other or kick or hurt each other... But the new kinds of bullying are verbal bullying, which is using words to make someone feel bad -- and it is actually more painful than physical bullying because it's psychological. And then there is a third kind of bullying which we call relational bullying, when we hurt each other's relationships, with gossiping and exclusion. And there's actually new data now to say that exclusion hurts kids as much as the lack of food or water would if you put them in a desert without anything... Exclusion hurts the worst. But there is a fourth kind, which is cyber-bullying which is now on the rise. And that's when kids bully each other through technology and that's even more difficult to figure out because kids' technology is changing all the time and the ways they bully can happen in ways that kids can't even anticipate. And it's hard to know how to stop it.
Adults have a rough time with online behavior, too. Facebook pages erupt in political arguments or battles over parenting styles, and cruel comments are left on personal blogs and articles. "How do you explain to your child the importance of being kind online when its hard to find even one YouTube video without a negative comment?" asks Leana Greene, founder and CEO of Kids in the House. "We have to teach our children that words can kill, both in person and online."
We interviewed 16 children from the Los Angeles area that have experienced bullying in school and online. Their stories are heartbreaking, and there's one common thread through all of them: the adults in their lives didn't know listen. The more we know about bullying, the more we can help our kids when it happens.
There is no simple fix to end bullying, but we hope to play a role in keeping the conversation going, so that no child feels like Pamela, and thinks that no one cares or notices what is happening. Greene hopes we can start with our own behavior online and in our daily interactions. "We think everyone should take a close look at their words and actions. We hope that you will help us share the message... Empower to #endbullying.."
Visit our #EndBullying section on Kids in the House, and help us make things better for the kids in our own houses.