I’m Worried About Quaden Bayles
Last week a heartbreaking video of a 9-year-old kid in Australia went viral. His name was Quaden Bayles, and he was being bullied in school. He was sobbing on camera begging his mother to give him a knife so he could kill himself. The mother said that this was the impact of bullying.
Quaden received an outpouring of support from celebrities and the general public, including financial support to the tune of $440,000. He got to walk out onto a Rugby field with a team and was met by a cheering stadium. While his viral status was not without hiccups (someone tried to say he was 18 and a scammer, a notion that was quickly put to rest by pictures of him as an infant in 2012), this video has now permanently changed Quaden’s life. At the moment, it is for the better. Anti-bullying advocates are receiving awareness and he’s getting a lot of cool stuff that any kid would be envious of, as well as a hell of a payday for his family.
But when I saw that video, the horror of the effects of bullying wasn’t what was on my mind. My stomach dropped, and I said out loud “thank fucking God my parents didn’t have Facebook”
I was bullied as a kid for a suite of typical reasons – I wasn’t skinny, I was too smart for my grade level, and I had a lot of problems socializing because I wasn’t a girly girl but I was also too garbage at sports to be an effective “tomboy”…But the main reason I was bullied was just for overall being “weird.” The weirdness wasn’t just a personality trait – it was also an offshoot of childhood mental illness.
I’m writing this article anonymously because I barely tell anyone that I’ve been in psychiatric care for as long as I can remember. I started hurting myself sometime around age 5 or 6. For reasons unknown, I would scratch myself, smack myself in the head, and violently bang my head on the wall. I said that I either felt “too sad and it won’t stop” or there were “too many thoughts in my head.”
I have memories of insomnia that go back as early as 5 or 6 where I would be up until 4am thinking that if I didn’t fall asleep soon, I was going to die. I remember my parents coming into my room to hug me because I was randomly crying and saying I wanted to die. I would sleep walk and have constant recurring nightmares. Once my parents had to grab me because I was standing in my bedroom doorway screaming and thrashing around. I was having a nightmare that I was caught in a giant spiderweb.
There were days I would refuse to get out of bed, or I would sleep underneath my bed and my parents would freak out unable to find me. I even ran away from home once for no reason as a 6 year old.
These are usually symptoms of child abuse, but this was not happening in my home at all. My parents, one of whom had an MS in education and worked with children on a regular basis, were extremely kind people. Young 20-something parents who never abused me had no idea what the hell was happening.
This behavior landed me in an endless stream of child psychiatric professionals, guidance counselors, and made me a guinea pig for every parenting book and every newly-minted ADHD drug that 90s doctors were so keen on pushing. I was on 8 different psychiatric medications before I turned 12 years old (the way that psychiatric professionals bungled my care/pushed pills on me is a separate issue).
I wasn’t being bullied for a visible disability like Quaden, but I was indirectly being bullied for something that was unseen. I was a kid that had to leave lunch every day to take pills. I’ve always been eccentric, but I was especially erratic as a child because I was over-medicated and isolating myself, literally going out of my way to find places on the playground where even people that I considered my friends would not find me. I always wanted to be alone, and if you’re alone and weird, you’re a target. I’ve been through as many diagnoses as I have been pills, but as an adult the writing on the paper is currently ADHD and BiPolar1.
I could go on about the horror of never experiencing a single neurotypical moment in my life despite coming from a good family, but that’s not what this article is about. What I want to say here is that if there was currently a tape of 6 year old me begging to die on the internet, I would be begging to die now. The video of Quaden made me extra sick to my stomach because the parents said that he had attempted before, like me.
While the emotional side of me wants to take Quaden’s mother and shake her and yell at her that she permanently gave up an ugly private moment to the public without his consent, and he will never be able to take that back, I also know that I am not a parent and I try as best practice to never tell parents how to parent.
I found a CNN op ed parent of a child with autism who echoes my same fear. She criticized the practice of “sharenting” or developing a social media presence for your child before they have a chance to consent to have their lives published online.
She stated :
“Sharing trauma without consent creates the conditions to replicate that trauma long into the future — it can expose someone to additional cruelty or serve as a disturbing and lingering reminder of that difficult moment. After all, it’s almost guaranteed that children will grow up and Google themselves at some point. Every child has the right to control his or her image and choose what to keep private. We have to break this cycle.”
According to a study conducted by the UK Children’s Commission, parents typically post 1300 pictures and videos of their children online before their children reach 13 years of age.
I remember as a teen eye-rolling when mom brought out the baby pictures of me in a bathtub. I can’t imagine what it’s like for a high school bully to have been able to just find all of them online, let alone a video of 6 year old me screaming that I didn’t want to sleep because I was scared of my nightmares with scratch marks all over my arms. I think that my mom wouldn’t post something like that, but I have no way of really knowing. They were in their 20s and they too could have wanted to make a statement – it could have easily been “this is the effects of bullying” or “this is what childhood mental illness looks like.” And sure, someone could have sent me to Disneyland – but if I were sitting here now with that in my past but had that video on the internet, I wouldn’t think it was worth it.
Quaden looks like he’s having the time of his life and he’s going to be financially set for life with that money stashed away. I hope this all turns out okay, and while I emotionally think the mom did the wrong thing, I’m not going to attack her for something she can’t fix without a time machine when I’m not even a parent. But if he grows up and he keeps being bullied by boys as “that crying boy from the internet” …will anything have been solved? People don’t like being tagged in unflattering pictures on Facebook – is he going to want this video out there when he grows up?
I beg parents to play it safe and think hard about what you post about your kids online. And I hope Quaden knows he is loved, and this awareness raising on his behalf remains positive.