Jeremy Olson writes about children and families, and is an overscheduled father of two. His blog tackles the best and worst of parenting, families, health and love. He wants to hear from you - what's going on in your house?
Chloe McCarty was just venting frustration Sunday evening when she posted a music video regarding the medical condition that causes her to pull out her hair and the bullying she has suffered for more than a year. The 12-year-old never dreamed it would generate global attention, sympathy and apologies from the classmates who hurt her, and support from a world-famous rock artist.
The video features Chloe flipping through cue cards that express her feelings. The background music is a song called Skin by Sixx: A.M., a band headlined by Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue fame. When the famed bass guitarist learned of the video via social media, he and other members of the band sent Facebook and Twitter messages of support to Chloe.
One Twitter post from Nikki Sixx: "Chloe ,You made the most beautiful video for 'Skin' ..Thank you..You improved the quality of ( Just ) my life with this video...I wanna meet you...You are a role model....Your strength will give others hope.....THANK YOU."
Today, after school at Roosevelt Middle School in Blaine, Chloe is scheduled to receive a phone call from Sixx. So here is the video that started it all:
Chloe was diagnosed with a condition called trichotillomania, shortly after she started sixth grade at Roosevelt, in fall 2010. Her mother, Jennifer McCarty, said the disorder commonly surfaces at this age, when children deal with the stress and anxiety of moving on to middle school.
As she lost her hair, she also lost her old friends. At school, Chloe was "exiled" as friends just ignored her, her mother said. It was onlne that the bullying emerged. "On Facebook, they'd feel free to say whatever they wanted."
With the video has come more understanding among classmates about her condition. One classmate named Matt apologized on her Facebook page: "Hey I really like your video ... I'm sorry about being mean 2 u and judging u without really knowing the real u.." The advocacy group for trichotillomania has contacted Chloe about helping to spread the word about the disorder. Chloe's video has more than 34,000 views -- and that's after the count was recently reset -- and she now has a community Facebook page for followers.
If this story makes you a little nervous as a parent, you're not alone. First, there's the fact that a 12-year-old isn't supposed to even be on Facebook, which has a soft 13-year-old age limit. Second, there are far more stories of viral videos coming back to hurt adolescents, rather than to give them even a little bit of fame and encouragement. (Remember the foul-mouthed Jessi Slaughter, anyone? She dun goof'd.) Third, there's the copyright issue of using a song as background without permission. You can't always expect a Nikki Sixx to come along and give his heartfelt support!
Jennifer McCarty was working her usual night shift at a Walgreen's pharmacy when her husband called last Sunday to tell her that her daughter had posted the video.
"My first reaction was, 'oh my god, delete that!'" the mother recalled. But then her husband told her to watch it first, and that it made him cry the first time he saw it.
Chloe and her family have so far sidestepped the landmines of Internet fame. Perhaps it's the fact that her video is so genuine and mature. Her parents have talked to her about remaining grounded despite the attention. Eventually, the fame will go away, and she'll still be a middle school student with the same challenges.
The enduring positive, her mother hopes, is that more classmates understand her now and are less likely to be cruel to her.
"At least now she might be a little more accepted," Jennifer McCarty said, "so that's a good thing."