A majority of children in the U.S. are active on social media. They learn about the world and themselves there, and also encounter behavior that’s insensitive and hateful, the kind we once imagined was relegated to playground bullies, or adults. These days everyone brushes against trolls — one is running for president — and young people develop coping strategies like the rest of us, perhaps much earlier in life than their parents ever had to.
On their family’s porch in West Baltimore, 11-year-old fraternal twins Malik and Marquis Moore talked about what it means to stand up to a bully, both on and offline. Malik rocked a mohawk, with a black tee tied around his neck to deflect the 90-degree heat. Marquis, in a baby blue tank, flipped back and forth in his chair against the brick wall of his home. They chatted about what they do when they witness harassment and the importance of respect.
Marquis: Bullying is when somebody messing with you and try to take your lunch money, and they bully on you like every day, on purpose. It’s when you getting pushed around. Bullies are the same age or older. If they’re younger, he not really doing nothing. He’s a kid to me. If he touch me, I’m not gonna hit him back.
Malik: You can bully with words, too.
Marquis: People bully because they think they tougher than other people and bigger than them. Or they just wanna pick on somebody or to get attention.
Malik: So they can get their lunch money. Or they bully just to bully because they’re mean like that. Because they don’t got things that other people got, like new clothes, new shoes, new backpack.
Marquis: Bullies wanna say mean things about you. They wanna tell your business and they say it all loud so everybody can hear.
Malik: If somebody try to bully me, I just turn my head the other way. I would tell my mother because my phone got GPS on it. If I saw somebody getting bullied, I will tell them to stop, then I will come get somebody to figure out the conversation and why they fighting. I’d get a parent.
Marquis: If it’s no grownups around, I would try to break it up.
Malik: On the internet, you would not see a person that’s bullying the other person. They would just be texting back and forth talking about, “Oh, I wanna fight you,” and all that stuff.
Marquis: Girls get bullied worse. No, I think boys. Boys think they cannot hit a girl so they bully boys because they can hit the boy.
“You gotta respect others to make them respect you.”
Malik: I think both. Some boys hating on other boys and some girls hating on others girls.
Marquis: I think girls get it worse on the apps because people wanna get on their nerves. Boys are usually the bullies. Boys don’t got no self-control of their self. On the apps, you just typing words up. In real life, you saying it to their face. But people can have their feelings hurt online when people say stuff about their family and their mother and their dead folk.
Malik: And cussing words.
Marquis: One time I had my feelings hurt in real life but not online. Somebody talked about my grandfather and he was dead.
Malik: Nobody trolled me on Instagram. My account is private.
Marquis: Mine not. I don’t be on there like that. I have three Instagrams.
Malik: We had Kik, but somebody [in Alabama] was going around texting people to meet them outside and then they raped them. So our mother made us delete it.
Marquis: If you don’t know them, don’t text them. If I had Kik and somebody texted me something like that, I would just delete their Kik.
Malik: I would block them. Blocking means they can’t text you or nothing. They can’t look at your pictures.
Marquis: People don’t bully me because I snitch.
Malik: He snitch sometimes.
Marquis: This one boy kept getting on my nerves so sometimes I used to snitch on him.
Malik: You and him is best friends!
Marquis: He get on my nerves. He keep touching my desk and putting stuff in my desk. I throw it back on his desk and he keep throwing it at my desk. Then he’ll lose his chair and have to stand because he got in trouble. Or sometimes we’ll have to face the wall. Or we’ll have to write words from the dictionary. You gotta write the word and the meaning.
Malik: If some kids be bad, the teacher make everybody write.
Marquis: She’ll put the words on the wall: What does it mean to be respectful?
Malik: You gotta respect others to make them respect you.
Marquis: I was ready to say that. If you treat people kind, they’ll treat you kind.