The viral video of 9-year-old Quaden Bayles has everyone around the world talking—even celebrities like Hugh Jackman. HLN’s Lynn Smith explains why everyone should be paying attention.
Credit: Getty Images/plherrera

In a now deleted Facebook video, Quaden Bayles’s mom made a desperate attempt to get advice on what to do when your child is being relentlessly bullied to the point of suicidal thoughts. In the clip that had been viewed more than 20 million times, Yarraka Bayles alerted viewers, “This is what bullying does to a 9-year-old kid. I’ve got to constantly keep my eye on him because of the suicide attempts.”

She went on to explain that people need to see what happens when every single day Quaden is teased or mocked for his disability. Quaden has achondroplasia dwarfism, a genetic condition that affects anywhere from 1 in 15,000 to 1 in 40,000 and makes one's arms and legs shorter than the head and torso.

Quaden’s mom said she used to tell her son to ignore it and realized that did nothing about the problem, and added she's now urging for disability awareness and education. “Every time it happens I’ll be doing a live video so that people know so hopefully we can make some changes so that this doesn’t happen to another family and hopefully we don’t lose another young innocent life to bullying.” Yarraka is every mom who sees her child hurting. She’s fed up and doing something about it.

Bullying is not new. I vividly remember how cruel other girls could be in middle school. But these days it seems children are meaner than ever, and their targets are taking it harder than ever. What’s changed?

Anne Boudreau, author of A Human Mosaic: Heal, Renew, & Develop Self-Worth, told me on HLN’s On the Story with Lynn Smith that social media has changed how visceral hate can be, but there are ways to turn this into a teachable moment for our kids. “We are so focused externally that we're never taught as children on how to speak to ourselves about ourselves, how to create self-respect, self-love, self-honor,” Boudreau told me. “As a parent, discuss with your kids how they are feeling, what they are doing, and their interactions with other people—how those interactions are affecting them. Teach your child to be aware of what their thoughts are and learn to catch them before they go into a self-defeating phase.”

If you hear your child saying things like “I can’t do this,” “I won’t do that,” “They don’t like me,” or “I hate myself,” Boudreau says you can help them turn their thoughts around. “Teach them to transform that message to, ‘I'm working on. I'm becoming stronger. I'm learning to love myself.’”

While this video of Quaden has gotten our attention, it’s another example of how bullying has become an epidemic for our young people. Between 1 in 4 and 1 in 3 students say they have been bullied at school, reports Suicide, dubbed as one of the deaths of despair, is the second leading cause of death among 10 to 34 years old, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. It’s unimaginable that something as preventable as bullying is taking our children’s lives.

Here’s the simple truth: Any kind and compassionate person watched this video in agony wondering how they could help this little boy know his worth and that he is loved. To know anyone could make another person feel this way is devastating for all of us. But people have stepped up. Beyond the tens of millions of views, comedian Brad Williams, who also has dwarfism, set up a GoFundMe to send this sweet boy to Disneyland. More than $460,000 has been raised, but the family declined the trip and most of the money will go to charity.

Athletes from Australia's rugby team also invited Quaden to lead the team onto the field at their game. And fellow Australian actor Hugh Jackman posted on his Twitter to send his love. “Quaden—you’ve got a friend in me. #BeKind,” he wrote.

Quaden’s heartbreak is an ironic reminder that kindness will always win when we step up as people and parents.

Personally, bullying is something we talk about at home all the time. If someone isn’t nice at school, we talk about how hurt people usually are the ones who hurt others. When the teachers tell me about something that was done that was unkind by my 4-year-old child, we discuss it. In some instances, we’ve drawn a picture for a friend to let them know we’re sorry we weren’t nice the other day. This morning, I left my son a note reminding him to be kind and that he is loved.

And as Jackman said nicely in his post: “Let’s just remember, every person in front of us is facing some kind of battle. So, let’s just be kind.”

Lynn Smith is the host of HLN's On The Story, which airs 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. ET.

EMERGING UPDATES: Reports alleging Quaden Bayles is actually 18 years old and scamming the public have surfaced since this article was published. People pointed to a photo of Quaden standing next to an “18” sign and his StarNow profile listing him as an actor, model, and influencer.

But the Australian TV show Living Black featured a story on Quaden in 2015 with footage that shows him as a young child. And the NY Post found a 2012 Facebook photo shared by Quaden’s relative where his mother commented at the time saying he was 15 months. As for the birthday photo in question, reports show Quaden was celebrating another person’s birthday. The fact-checking website Snopes has also called the rumor false.

Stand Tall 4 Dwarfism, run by his mother, also shared a post saying “fake accounts are popping up everywhere” and encouraged people to report them. (That page, as well as Quaden and his mom’s social media pages appear to have been deleted following the controversy.)