What happens when a ten year old is bullied for days on end for her clothes, her teeth, her hair, and anything else you can think of? When teachers, administrators and fellow students fail to intervene in cases of persistent and rampant bullying, the consequences can be severe.
For me, it looked like an urgent school change. Had I not had the support of my parents and the ability to get out of a hostile social environment, I can’t imagine how I would’ve survived.
Fast forward, I’ve channeled my negative experience into creating #HatNotHate, a craftivist campaign devoted to raising awareness and building unity against bullying by collecting and donating handmade blue hats around the country.
I was inspired by my own experience, but also the experiences of others, be it friends in my social group, coworkers, or my young nieces and nephews on social media. I quickly learned that too many of us have our own bullying story.
We’ve got to realize the fight against bullying isn’t just for schools, or children, or even victims of bullying; it’s everyone’s fight. We all have a stake in creating a safe and welcoming environment, whether at school, in the workplace or in the community.
A worsening epidemic
My bullying experience happened before the advent of social media. Since then, a lot has changed for the worse. As many as one in every three grade-age children experience bullying. That’s a startling large portion of our boys and girls, but the problem doesn’t stop at the schoolyard. The permeation of social media use across all ages and backgrounds has created new opportunities for cyberbullies to attack anyone and do so anonymously.
Had my bully in fourth grade had access to social media, for example, they could have continued to torment me online despite my relocation to a new school.
At a time when society is already struggling with deep divisions, bullying and increasing social isolation has given way to an epidemic of loneliness.
The Health Resources and Services Administration reports that two out of five people sometimes or always feel their social relationships aren’t meaningful. Even more concerning, one in five feel lonely or isolated.
Are we destined to continue down this destructive path? We don’t have to be.
Anyone can be an advocate
If we all put our networks, resources and platforms to work, we have a better chance of ending bullying.
Three years ago I decided to use my platform as a brand ambassador for Lion Brand Yarn Company, a knitting and craft yarn company, to stand up to bullying.
I launched #HatNotHate, an anti-bullying campaign promoting a symbol solidarity: the blue hat. We’ve been able to tap into Lion Brand Yarn’s incredible community of knitting and crocheting craftivists to donate handmade blue hats, which we collect and distribute to school-aged children across the country during National Bullying Prevention Month in October.
In each school and community we work with, these handmade and individually unique hats are a humble sign of strength in the face of bullying.
Even if you’re not particularly crafty, you can get involved and how your support for the campaign by posting a photo or video in your favorite blue hat on social media using #HatNotHate.
Enough is enough
To combat a problem that has truly reached epidemic levels, we need to boldly show our faces and rally together to say, ‘enough is enough.’
How I longed for someone at my school to recognize my pain and show their support against bullying. To me and millions of children, it can make all of the difference. That’s why it’s incumbent on all of us to stand up and work together to combat bullying wherever it turns up.
We must seize any and every opportunity to speak up against bullying. Use any resource or platform you have. From a group text with a bunch of friends to an office holiday party or the comments section of an online video, one person’s courage can have an enormous impact on the lives of others.