Cowell's Insults Tell Young People It's OK to Be a Bully
Byline: Lynne Kelleher
THEY are among the highlights of the X Factor... but now Simon Cowell's withering putdowns have been blamed for encouraging school bullies.
Campaigner Patricia Kennedy says the ridicule heaped on some contestants is mimicked by impressionable teenagers with devastating effects.
One teenager, Kate Hennessey, tells the TV3 documentary series Teenage Lives how she started to harm herself three years ago after suffering cruel taunts in primary and secondary school.
Miss Kennedy, who now runs an anti-bullying organisation called Sticks and Stones, said children are picking up the wrong signals from Simon Cowell's show.
She added: 'We are seeing a particular emotional cruelty. The nastier Simon Cowell gets, the higher the ratings go on X Factor. The problem is that a 12 or 13-year-old won't watch them with the same eyes as an adult. They see it as being socially acceptable. So it's OK for Susan Boyle to walk out onto a stage and be booed and jeered because of the way she looks.' The TV3 documentary claims that 200,000 Irish children are at risk of suffering from bullying.
Kate, 17, said she began to be bullied at the age of seven when she arrived at a new school after her family moved from Dublin to Wicklow.
She said: 'I was picked on and slagged. Things were blamed on me and nobody wanted to be my friend and they would never come to my house after school and to my birthday parties.
'I remember them making me feel horrible about myself all the time.
'I remember one incident in particular in second class where one of the boys in my class came up behind me and started to choke me with his arms wrapped around my neck. Two of the girls had to hit and him and kick him to get him off me.' The bullying stopped when she was moved to a new school in third class, but began again when she attended a secondary school in Dublin. She said: 'I didn't have any friends with me and I began getting bullied in that school. I got a lot of name-calling and rumours being spread about me that I was doing stuff with boys and I beat people up all the time. …