Kids Read Mean Tweets: Bullying Is Different But Still the Same

Education Featured
Amelia Wells December 9, 2009 Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
Photo: Amelia Wells – Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

One doesn’t need to grow up as a geek in order to have been bullied, but it certainly helped. My parents and older brothers helped me cope with being bullied, as they had gone through the same experience. As a parent, I should feel confident that I can help my son through such inevitable tough times, but the landscape of bullying has changed. With the internet came anonymity, a comfortable distance from targets, and a much more public voice. Bullying in the 21st century is quite different from what I experienced as a child. A new viral video campaign from the Canadian Safe School Network seeks to help start the discussion.

As adults, it’s easy to forget exactly how much mean-spirited humor hurt before you had developed the emotional maturity to handle such blows to the ego. We’ve learned to devalue the source of the insult in order to maintain our value and self worth. Children don’t have the experience to do that. What makes it worse is having something vicious published about them on Facebook or Twitter for all the world to see. How can a kid see that and not feel that it’s true?

Organizations like the Canadian Safe School Network help both kids and parents deal with bullying in the Internet Age. They have recently launched a new campaign to help bring to light the difference between harsh comments made online at adults and those made towards children. A regular segment on Jimmy Kimmel Live, “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets” adds a touch of levity to the terrible things written about public figures on Twitter. When those same things are written about our sons and daughters, however, it’s an attack on someone who has difficulty resolving the difference between a widely-held belief and a thoughtless comment from a bully.

“…adult celebrities have the maturity and confidence to overcome these hurtful words. Children don’t. For regular kids, words can cut like a knife. Cyber-bullying is an epidemic that invades their lives and leaves many feeling like there’s no way out.”
Stu Auty, President of the Canadian Safe School Network


The video begins very much like the Jimmy Kimmel Live segments, the tweets steadily become less clever, yet more cruel. We watch as kids struggle to read them without taking it personally. The laugh track fades from uproarious laughter to uncomfortable chuckling, then finally silence. It’s an emotional point made about an emotional topic.

After one week online, the video has received over two million views. I reached out to CSSN to answer a few questions about the campaign, and to ask what advice they have for parents and kids. Katie McCabe, Education & Development Coordinator responds below.

GeekDad: What tools does the Canadian Safe Schools Network provide to parents and teens to help them cope with online bullying?

Katie McCabe: Currently we have up-to-date and relevant information on our website for youth, parents, and teachers. This content includes understanding the definition, commonly used social median applications, law and legislation, tips for helping yourself and others, etc.
In addition to our online content, we also run an anonymous online platform called “When Nobody’s Listening” that allows youth and adults to ask questions, post problems, etc. pertaining to cyberbullying and a variety of other safe schools issues. One of our team members responds to these posts on a regular basis to both support and provide resources to that individual.
We also hold student and adult conferences throughout the school year and cyberbullying/social media use is always an included topic.
We have done in-school presentations for parents and teachers on the topic of cyberbullying.

GeekDad: Most GeekDad readers are not from Canada. Do you have advice on how these parents can help their children prepare for and cope with cyber bullying?

Katie McCabe: Stay informed. Know what apps and sites your kids use and understand how they use them, including privacy settings.
Be your child’s “friend” online. Be involved in your child’s life online. Transparency is key, especially for young children who are just learning how to navigate these apps themselves.
Talk to your child about what is and isn’t appropriate online behaviour and when they should speak to an adult/report it.
Intervene where necessary. Ultimately your role as a parent is to keep your child safe.

GeekDad: You’ve launched an Indiegogo crowdsourcing campaign to help fund media buys and get more people to see the video. Why did you choose this model to help fund the campaign?

Katie McCabe: We feel that this approach helps people to feel more “involved” with the campaign and in spreading the message. They are able to gain some ownership of something they feel strongly about and want to support.

GeekDad: Are donations tax-deductible?

Katie McCabe: Donations made directly to CSSN are tax deductible.

GeekDad: How did John St. help in the creative direction and production of the video?

Katie McCabe: The fantastic team at John St. approached us with this brilliant idea and were at the forefront of this powerful PSA.

In order to help get the video in front of young eyes, the Canadian Safe School Network has started a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. You can help by donating to help buy ad space, sharing the video, and showing it to others.

Talk to your kids about cyberbullying. You may never have had experiences with childhood bullying on the Internet, but you likely do have invaluable experience being on the receiving end of schoolyard bullying. The format is different, but you can still help them better than anyone. If you need more help, contact the Canadian Safe School Network in Canada, in the US, or a similar organization near you.

If you know of a good resource for kids, parents, or teachers, please share it in the comments below.

Source: Kids Read Mean Tweets! – Raising Awareness about Cyberbullying

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