Editor’s note: Content warning for abusive language.
By now, I’m sure we’ve all seen some sort of parody or viral video of Danielle Bregoli, known for her appearance on Dr. Phil’s show. Reactions to her appearance which can be seen here (warning: strong and vile language ahead) have been as follows:
Even generally open-minded, socially aware, individuals have commented in similar ways to the examples above, with variations of, “this girl needs to get her ass beat.”
A lot of us may not realize it or want to admit it, but this is cyberbullying. And it is not okay.
The Internet is something we hide behind, speaking freely and seemingly devoid of consequences. Nothing we say feels real or direct…until of course someone hurts themselves as a result of our words, and then we pretend we had nothing to do with it (even though we absolutely did).
We need to start recognizing when our online activity becomes cyberbullying. Adults bullying children is not acceptable in any other context, so why do we allow it online?
In all honestly, my first reaction when I stumbled upon one of the videos on Facebook was similar: “What is wrong with this kid?” I thought. But I caught myself. “Kid,” I repeated to myself. She’s just a kid.
When a child behaves in a negative, atypical way, we should be asking ourselves what happened to them to cause that behavior, because I assure you something did. Personally, I don’t know what she’s been through, but I hope this young girl gets whatever help she needs.
A lot of people have speculated that all of Danielle’s antics were orchestrated by Danielle’s mother for some fame and money. Even if that’s true, even if this kid is making tons of money creating “Cash me ousside” and “How bow dah” merchandise and capitalizing on her fifteen minutes of fame, that doesn’t excuse the abuse aimed at her by people who should know better.
It’s easy to go online and dehumanize celebrities and people on TV. We say things about them that we would never say about someone we know. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences.
Celebrities are not “fair game” just because they are in the public eye and “signed up” for attention and criticism; they are people, and like all people, have very real and very human struggles.
The internet, in particular, can be dangerous in regards to bullying because it allows for certain negative moments and incidents of anyone’s life to be immortalized. You don’t have to be famous for it to happen to you. You can even be a child and have it happen to you.
We’ve turned Danielle, like so many kids before her, into a spectacle – someone we watch and laugh at purely for entertainment, with no regard to her well-being.
Sure, Dr. Phil is technically there to help her, but I don’t buy it. The episode itself is literally titled, “I Want to Give Up My Car-Stealing, Knife-Wielding, Twerking 13-year-old Daughter Who Tried to Frame me for a Crime.” During the episode, we see that her mother publicly refers to Danielle (her 13-year-old child) as “the Antichrist.”
Progress happens in private therapy sessions, not on television. What I see is, at best, a show exploiting a young child who behaves in an “entertaining” way.
As a society, we see this kind of bullying time and time again, and when we read and share these things online, we become active participants. Lindsey Lohan was dragged mercilessly for years, and often still is, for the way she “went crazy” after her time as a child actor. We often commend stars who don’t follow in her footsteps, using her as a bad example. We did the same thing with Amanda Bynes. The examples are endless.
This is unacceptable.
Let’s try to do better. Let’s acknowledge that cyberbullying has many different faces and stop sharing viral videos of children. There are plenty of other positive things to share and plenty of other people to laugh with, instead of at.