#TimesUp: Kids Talk Sexual Harassment, Cyberbullying & the Bystander Effect

Jan 11, 2018 at 2:52 p.m. ET

The #TimesUp movement swept Hollywood last weekend. Dozens of celebrities donned black for the Golden Globes and gave riveting speeches about why they'll no longer be silent about sexual harassment and assault, income inequality and the sexism that plagues industries from agriculture to entertainment. Plenty of female celebrities made headlines for fearlessly calling out disparities in pay and representation in media.

But as inspiring as these moments were, perhaps nothing compared to Oprah Winfrey's acceptance speech in which she urged "all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon." Finally, someone mentioned children.

More: We Asked Tech-Savvy Kids to Go Without Phones for a Week

As we talk about the longstanding culture of silence surrounding inequality and sexual misconduct, we often omit kids from the conversation, seemingly forgetting that we learn from an early age it's easier and more comfortable to stay silent than to stand up. So we asked the kids from Hatch, our initiative to encourage kids to use technology and media responsibly, to share with us why and when they don't speak up in the face of harassment — and their answers were heartbreaking.

Over the course of the two-minute video, the Hatch kids revealed they've either been bullied or have witnessed their peers being bullied — because of everything from their religion to their bodies — online or in group text chats.

"High schoolers made a group chat, and they were saying, like, racist, anti-Semitic things, homophobic things. And comparing, like, a girl to a whale," one of the teens said.

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Another shared that she had been harassed on Instagram by an account called SkankHunt127. The person or people behind the account said they wanted to kick her in the throat and told her she was the reason her parents got divorced.

How do kids respond to that kind of torment? Do they even feel empowered to respond at all?

"If I stand up to them, I'm also going to be targeted, when I did nothing wrong," one teen said. Others chimed in to add that many kids their age don't want to be perceived as "tattletales" — so they often stay silent rather than be accused of stirring up trouble by speaking out.

"It's really hard to blow the whistle," one teen said. "You want to stand up, but you don't want to stand out."

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Thankfully, there are many ways we can help. One is to watch for the subtle signs of hurtful behavior and lead by example by calling it out when we see it. Another is to let our kids know there are countless adults — their teachers, coaches, friends' parents and, of course, you — who will happily listen to and support them. #TimesUp on silence, and it's on all of us to create meaningful, lasting change.

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