There was recently a viral video of a kid talking about being bullied at school, his name is Keaton Jones. I could really relate to it having being bullied as a child, yet something about the responses to Keaton’s video irritated me a little too. The words of support are well-intentioned, but ultimately quite useless.
My first experience of bullying was when a girl pushed me up against the sandpit fence and told me she was going to bring a knife in to cut me up. We were only about five or six years old. Kids called me fatty, they called me smelly bottom, they chased me, they pushed me and they called me a bastard because my parents had split up. A gang of boys on bikes cornered me on a bridge and threatened to throw me off. It was all just a funny ‘joke’ of course.
Kids can be really mean. The adults around me, who were trying their best to help, told me rhymes like ‘sticks and stones’ and said I should just stick up for myself. ‘Get a bit more confidence’. ‘Be more assertive’. I had no idea what that meant but I knew I certainly couldn’t buy it in a jar from Woolworths. However, not all the adults were trying to help. Some teased me about my puppy fat. They said things like ‘smile, it’s not the end of the world’ and ‘stop talking so much’ (I was a very quiet kid so that was meant to be some kind of hilarious joke). Then they’d tease me for being too sensitive when I got upset and said it was ‘only a bit of fun.’ Let me tell you, it was not fun. It left me with years of body image and confidence issues, and continued self-doubt which I still battle with all the time.
I hope that by sharing his video, Keaton doesn’t encounter even more difficulties. He’s a brave kid. Bullies often don’t like a snitch, or crying boys in general for that matter. I hope he’ll be able to have some counselling to help him move past this.
When I told the teachers at school that I was being picked on, it just brought more attention to me. It seemed like they were just showing off what a great school they were with their anti-bullying policy. I feel for Keaton and I appreciate all the people who are trying to support to him, but it’s not enough.
Kids can be mean, but they’re not born that way. They’re learning it from us, the adults. You can’t expect kids to play nice when we live in a bullying culture where kindness is seen as a weakness. People talk about bullies like they are only ever children - like they turn 18 years old and suddenly they stop. Like bullying is something confined to playgrounds. It’s not. Every single day people get death threats on social media. Women get rape threats on Twitter. There are racist attacks and sexual assaults. People bully their way to success at work. People shout out of car windows. People make passive-aggressive jokes and disguise their prejudices as banter. You think that playgrounds are bad? It’s nothing compared to politics. The media often promotes this judgementalism and spreads hate. I could go on.
Bullies exist as adults, we just don’t call them bullies. They’re no kinder just because they’re grown-up, they’ve just got better at disguising their bullying as something else. We live in a world where bullying is not only acceptable but is praised. Many of the rich men who run the world have used their power to bully their way to the top.
If you want to help stop bullying, as adults it is your responsibility to be kind and show compassion. We need to question our own behaviour, stop judging other people for being different, and change this bullying culture. We have to build a nicer world for kids in the future where they treat everybody equally, but they’re not going to do that until we - the adults - lead the way.