I came across a YouTube video via Yahoo! News Singapore a couple of days ago, made by a 12-year-old Singapore kid called Theo Chen, where he talked about how he’s been treated poorly by his peers online and verbally. How he was called names like ‘gay’, and ‘fag’ and ‘faggot’. And so he made the video to express how unhappy he is and he wants them to stop.
I’m just shocked. He’s twelve! He’s remarkably articulate, I think. I am very impressed by how well he expresses himself. And the nuggets of wisdom he spouted like, “Mankind shouldn’t judge people based on their sexuality“, and “Calling other people gay doesn’t make you more straight.” What an astoundingly smart kid.
Is it okay if I put the twelve-year-old kid’s video here, like it’s not inappropriate or anything, right? It’s not pervy, right?
Anyway, I decided not to put the video here.
I’m not shocked that a twelve-year-old kid already has to grapple with being called names, because I experienced that myself practically my entire school life. Seven to twelve years old in Primary School, then thirteen to sixteen in Secondary School. I was a ‘softie’ as a kid. ‘Gay’ wasn’t a common word back then, what I got hit with was the Malay ‘bapok‘ and ‘pondan‘, and the Hokkien (Chinese dialect) ‘ah kua‘. It didn’t happen every day. Maybe a couple of times in a week. When the bullies got bored and wanted a distraction I guess.
And there were no consistent bullies. Sometimes the taunts came even from girls, who would casually throw one of the hurtful labels at me and then pointedly waited for the desired reaction from my face. And sometimes it came even from otherwise ‘nice friends’. And on other days they were normal regular kids who talked to me like they talked with other kids. It was pretty weird. Like the kids were experimenting with different roles as they grew up. Deciding to be bullies or nice people. Which one should they be, and which one was more fun. Taking turns to rotate their roles. Fickle part-time bullies. I remember the taunts can range from mild to terrible. I might go home all upset, determined and promising myself never to talk to those kids again (‘That would show ’em!’). And yet, somehow, and this I remember distinctly, no matter how terrible the taunts, I always recovered very quickly, sometimes even before I left school for the day.
It helped that the bullies never got physical. They just wanted laughs at my expense, which was cruel enough. But after they were done, it’s like they totally forgot what they did and treated me normally.
I think maybe I’m just thick-skinned by nature, even as a little kid. Or irrepressibly good-natured. Or just playful. Or just dense, maybe? I don’t know. I just know that I never got upset for long. It never got to a stage where I cried, I was never that upset.
Usually by the time I got home and stuffed myself with lunch and parked my ass in front of the television, I had already forgotten everything. And when I got back to school the next day, I was my usual chirpy and easygoing self. It didn’t take a lot to make me happy. (It still doesn’t! I’m easy that way. Haha!)
Gosh I meant to talk about the Theo Chen kid and then I rambled on and on about myself.
He’s such a brave kid.
And seriously, I hope his parents and teachers have looked into this matter by now. He sounded really distressed. Maybe it’s tween angst or whatever, but this is like a call for help, and any call for help whether public or private, warrants investigation into what’s going on. At least just to be on the safe side.
Also, I know how his ‘sharing’ his troubles in public on YouTube could help other kids in the same spot, by reminding them they are not alone and maybe hopefully instill some courage in them to say out loud to their tormentors to stop their nonsense. I certainly didn’t have Theo’s courage and maturity to tell my bullies to stop. And I admire this little kid greatly, sincerely, and I’m sure his parents are delighted and proud of their son. I would be too.
But… *heavy sigh*… I’m sincerely sorry if this upsets anyone, but I want to say that at the same time I felt very uncomfortable watching Theo’s video. Yes, discomfort from watching his pain expressed on camera. My heart went out to him. But most of my discomfort came from watching a twelve year old kid talking about an adult subject in a public forum like YouTube. Sure, his video was meant to be seen by his friends, and it was the bullies among them who called him gay. And while it’s admirable he’s supporting gays by saying there’s nothing wrong with being gay, at the same time he’s only twelve. That’s too young, no? Maybe discussing it among friends in private, fine, but not in public.
I just felt very very uncomfortable he’s talking about this, in a public forum. That’s all. Isn’t there some private forum for kids his age, like their own sites to share photos and videos, accessible only to kids their age? Or something? Is it feasible to have something like that? Or is it possible to have his privacy settings set in such a way so that only his targeted audience (in this case the friends he was referring to) could have access to his videos?
If I were his dad, I would be very proud of him, but at the same time I would be totally freaked out by the video. Firstly to discover that he’s being bullied, then secondly that he’s talking about an adult subject, with a maturity and precociousness that might attract unwanted attention. Then I would almost faint when I see now he has over 1500 subscribers. Then I would go over every single one of them like a hound dog (is that possible? to check who is subscribing to your kid’s videos?). When I come across adult subscribers, especially male adults, I would be very tempted to shoot them a short message, “Oh hey, thanks for liking my son’s video and subscribing to his channel… but uhmm, you’re in your late teens or in your twenties or even older right, and he’s twelve and all his other videos are twelve year old kid’s stuff and what the hell do you think you’re doing watching my twelve year old son’s videos!!!!????“.
Yup, something like that.