What do a high school student and a WWE Superstar have in common? They both know bullying when they see it — and they see it all the time, whether at school or in social media comments.
Recently, teenager and Boys & Girls Club anti-bullying advocate Dejae and WWE Global Ambassador and Boys & Girls Club alumnus Titus O’Neil sat down to talk about bullying.
How Bullying Affects Students
“I was bullied as a kid,” says Titus. “Being poor and growing up, we didn’t always have the best clothes. I also wore glasses and got bullied in many ways, from pranks to fights and everything in between. As I got older, I developed a very strong distaste for bullying, simply because I didn’t understand how people could be so cruel.
Now, Titus is an advocate for bullying prevention, helping to educate Boys & Girls Club youth on how to stand up to bullying through Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s partnership with WWE and the program of bullying prevention Be A STAR.
For Dejae, a high school teenager, the bullying also started early – and lasted. “I was bullied at a young age, second through fourth grade, at least,” she says. “I cried a lot because I was bullied and I really didn’t know why. It took me years to tell a teacher. And the only reason it stopped was is because I went to an adult and got help.
When Dejae joined the Boys & Girls Club of the Hatchie River area in 2015, she found caring mentors and a bullying prevention program she wished she had when she was being bullied at school. school.
As a teenage ambassador for the Be A STAR program, Dejae serves as a bullying prevention coach and role model for her club peers, demonstrating tolerance, kindness and acceptance while educating young members of the club. club on recognizing and responding to bullying. “It feels good to help other kids learn the importance of not being a bully,” she says. “And helping other kids taught me how to be better myself.”
Changing mindsets from snitching to saving lives
Dejae’s experience of waiting years to tell an adult that she was being bullied is not unusual. According to 2022 Youth Data from Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the majority of young people (67%) say that when something is wrong in their life, they try to keep people from finding out.
Plus, going to an adult to report bullying has age-old social connotations — whistleblowers, snitches, and the like. – which can cause young people to put their social status ahead of their mental health, physical safety and more. But bullying prevention advocates like Titus and Dejae are working to change that mindset.
“If someone is being bullied, you could actually save their life by saying so,” Titus says. “The bully could hurt the person, or the person could turn around and hurt themselves just because they’re tired of being bullied and they’ve yelled for help in the wrong place. Being able to go tell a trusted adult could very well save someone’s life. You could save someone’s sanity space. You could put someone in a position where they feel empowered to use their voice.
The urgency to tell someone about bullying before it gets too far hits hard with Dejae. Recently, she lost a friend to suicide after being repeatedly bullied at school and feeling hopeless. “He was a really lovely guy. Very smart,” she says. “But I feel like if someone had done something sooner, he’d still be here, you know?”
How to deal with cyberbullying
In recent years, as children and teens spend more and more time on screens, cyberbullying has become a primary form of bullying. “It’s very easy for people to be cruel or rude online,” says Titus. “But it’s just as easy for us to deflect it. I always tell people that if someone doesn’t know you personally, don’t take it personally.
Titus and Dejae’s top tips for dealing with cyberbullying include:
• Know the signs of cyberbullying.
• Block online bullies.
• Check friends who may be receiving negative interactions online.
• If you or someone else is being bullied, tell an adult.
On social media, kids often see cyberbullying happening in real time. Dejae notes that checking out if someone is being cyberbullied is important to let them know that they are not alone and that cyberbullying is unacceptable.
“Cyberbullying could be like Instagram, Facebook, anything. And it could just be in their comments saying rude and horrible things to them,” she says. “For me, I would probably text them or call them and be like, ‘Hey, it’s okay. You know, it’s just words. They don’t mean anything. They just want to be mean to someone.
Titus adds, “Conversation is the biggest key. It’s important to say, ‘hey what’s going on?’ if their mood is bad. Hopefully you can talk to them about it as a friend and then tell a trusted adult about the situation. And remember, there is a blocking feature on each of these apps.
Bullying Prevention in Boys and Girls Clubs
Boys & Girls Clubs play a special role in the lives of American children and teens, with trained, caring staff who get to know young people every day during the critical period between school and home. Club staff regularly check club members for stress, self-esteem and mental well-being and know how to spot signs of bullying.
The Boys and Girls Clubs Be A STAR bullying prevention program equips children with the knowledge and skills to develop their emotional intelligence, regulate their emotions, and learn how to express their feelings safely. Young people learn the most common forms of bullying they might encounter, as well as specific advice on what to do if: you feel you have bullied someone; you are the target or victim of bullying; you have witnessed harassment.
The importance of anti-bullying programs also stems from the fact that they provide children with a non-judgmental forum to openly discuss emotions and bullying, share experiences, and build empathy and community. When a celebrity and former club kid like Titus O’Neil shows up at a Be A STAR rally, young people see that most people have been bullied in some form and realize he’s strong. talk about.
For Dejae, becoming a bullying prevention advocate for her club gives her pride. “I know it really hurts to be bullied – it made me feel disappointed, hurt, sad,” she says. “It feels good to know that I can help other children.”
Titus’ biggest tip for kids and adults alike? “In a world where there is so much negativity, speak up and treat others with kindness.”
Join the club
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