Protecting Our Disabled Children: My Outrage About the Cyberbullying of Mariah Anderson

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Earlier last week, I became outrage when I read the story about the cyberbullying of a two years old toddler named Mariah Anderson from South Carolina.  To read how adults had viciously ridiculed an defenseless child sickened me gravely, and I knew that I could not ignore what transpired.

How Mariah Was Bullied Online

Mariah Anderson was born with a rare condition called Chromosome Two Duplication Syndrome, which impairs her learning and motor skills.  Mariah’s mother shared photographs of Mariah’s birthday celebration online, and the images went viral in the worst possible way imaginable.  Mariah’s images were used as memes to mock her appearance, and hurtful comments were written.  Mariah’s mother was rightfully horrified at the way her daughter’s photographs were misused, and the level of pure disrespect online users displayed in the statements made about Mariah’s appearance.

Why This Cyberbullying Incident Angered Me

Anyone who knows me will tell you how massive of a soft spot I have for children in general, but especially for our disabled children and those of color.  Being a former child with a disability, I know firsthand how vulnerable disabled children are to the prejudices, ignorance, and misconceptions held by peers and adults regarding their disability and mere existence.  Adults, in particular, should know better than to stoop so low to saying hateful things about any child’s appearance; children are to be protected by any means necessary, not abused or bullied online.

I was so disheartened by the blatant lack of respect and sensitivity that I posted a rant on YouTube.  I could not keep my anger bottled up or share my infuriating only through writing.  I had to verbalize it because we should all speak out when it comes to protecting and uplifting our children, regardless of ability, race, gender, etc.

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Final Thoughts

What happened to Mariah should not occur for any child.  We should be vexed at the actions and behaviors of adults who took it upon themselves to villainize a child’s image in such a degrading manner.  The internet is not a free-for-all space where we can be cruel and demean those who are different.  Sitting behind a computer screen does not give you permission or the authority to devalue someone’s life or appearance.  We should be ashamed that this ever happened – if we fail to love and support our children, then how can we expect them to love themselves and genuinely support their peers?  It is imperative to lead by example not through words alone, but through actions, both in real life and in our virtual worlds.

I, like so many others, have spoken out in support of Mariah Anderson and her family.  A Facebook page and a Go Fund Me page has been created for such purposes.  Let’s do our part to show Mariah, and many other disabled children, that they are loved, special, beautiful, and important by establishing a safe place online where such offensive measures will not be condoned.

CALL FOR ACTION:  What are your thoughts about the cyberbullying incident of Mariah?  Has your child been a victim of cyberbullying at the hands of their peers and/or adults?  What kind of example are we setting as adults if we misbehave and misuse social media to harm others?  How can we better advocate against cyberbullying when we see it online?  What do you think you can do, or teach your kids, to combat cyberbullying?

(Featured headlining image:  Courtesy of Norman L. Durkins via the Mariah Is Beautiful Facebook page.)

About Vilissa Thompson, LMSW

Vilissa is the Founder & CEO of Ramp Your Voice!, an organization she created to establish herself as a Disability Rights Consultant & Advocate. Ramp Your Voice! is a prime example of how macro-minded Vilissa truly is, and her determination to leave a giant "tire track mark" on the world.

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