Three-time Olympic gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas has a message for kids who are the subject of cyberbullying and harassment.
"I just want to say that you are not alone," Douglas, 20, said in an interview that aired today on "Good Morning America. "And even though it may seem the world's against you -- and I definitely felt like the world was definitely against me in Rio -- I'm here today to tell you that's not the case."
"There are people out there who love you and your life is very valuable and it's very important, so just stay strong," she said.
Douglas was infamously bullied online while competing with the gold medal-winning "Final Five" USA women’s gymnastics team at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Social media users slammed Douglas for her facial expressions, not placing her hand on her heart during the national anthem and even her hair. The scrutiny was so intense and publicized that the hashtag #Love4GabbyUSA was created to drown out the hate.
Douglas, who vaulted into the public spotlight with two gold medals at the 2012 London Olympics, said the backlash in Rio was her first experience with online bullying.
"I was caught off guard," she said. "I was like, 'Wait, what's going on?'"
Douglas stayed off social media until after she and her teammates won the gold medal in the team competition but then allowed herself to go back online.
"I started Googling myself, which I probably shouldn't have done," she said.
Now, nearly four months after that experience, Douglas is putting herself in the social media spotlight again, but this time as a force for change.
Douglas is the first Change Ambassador for Hack Harassment, an initiative among media and tech companies and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation to "take a stand against online harassment," according to its website.
"I am encouraging everyone to take a pledge," she said. "It's called the hackharassment.com/pledge and you read it and you follow it."
"It's pretty simple," Douglas explained. "You take the pledge and you don't be mean online anymore."
Douglas is also encouraging parents to play a role in trying to prevent online bullying.
"It starts at home," she said. "If you're a good example to your kid, your kid's going to follow that example. If the kid sees you nasty, he/she's going to take over that role."