As students settle into their new school year routines of homework, sports and friends, there is also a very serious trend that also tends to settle in schools this time of year--bullying. It has been a problem facing America's youth for decades, but with the immense popularity of social media and constant connectivity, bullying has taken on a whole new dimension in today's youth culture. An unflattering photo, an embarrassing moment, or a vicious lie could be viral to an entire school in a matter of minutes. It is an epidemic that is hard to control. So what are students, parents and educators to do?
This year, as part of October's Bullying Prevention Month, many well known media outlets will team up to present a call for action on this often overlooked issue. CNN's Anderson Cooper 360°, PEOPLE Magazine and Cartoon Network will present a special multi-platform report on the bullying epidemic facing young people in America.
CNN's Anderson Cooper will present a one-hour special town hall on Anderson Cooper 360°. The town hall, titled Bullying: No Escape; an AC 360 Special Report with PEOPLE Magazine and Cartoon Network, will air Oct. 8th at 10 PM. The town hall participants will include author and psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw, and Rosalind Wiseman, author of the best-selling book "Queen Bees and Wannabees", which inspired the movie "Mean Girls." American Idol finalist Crystal Bowersox will also share how bullying effected her life. Families personally struggling with this issue will discuss how it has become so prevalent and what parents and children can do to stop it. Additional town hall participants will also discuss the latest understandings and response options for bystanders, who represent 75-85% of students in schools considered witnesses to bullying.
CNN will also be airing a series, beginning Oct. 4th at 10PM, on the dangers of sexting bullying and the world of cyber-bullying.
PEOPLE magazine will run a bullying package in the Oct. 18th issue, which hits newsstands on Oct. 8th. This special editorial section will feature confessions of a former bully and stories from students who were tormented in school.
Cartoon Network will launch their initiative, Stop Bullying: Speak Up, on Oct. 4th. The network will feature on-air PSAs that will direct young viewers and parents to visit CartoonNetwork.com for key online resources developed in coordination with the network's recently established Bullying Prevention Advisory Board.
So, will all of this awareness actually make an impact on the issue of bullying? I believe that it will.
Oftentimes children or teens that are considered to be bullies do not actually know the effect that they are having on their victim. You see, children have a funny way of thinking that their actions aren't really causing their victim pain or mental suffering. They also believe that teasing isn't as bad as physically harming someone, when in reality it could be worse. Girls tend to be the more inclined to tease or spread rumors about other girls, and unfortunately it has become even easier for them to do so via social networking sites. Cyber bullying is becoming a major problem for students, parents and educators throughout the United States.
CNN's Anderson Cooper 360°, PEOPLE Magazine and Cartoon Network are taking a step in the right direction by educating the public on the issue of bullying. One aspect of this new campaign that I particularly like is the use of PSAs on Cartoon Network. It is a great way to actually reach children and hopefully have an impact on their behaviors. A child that may not have even realized he/she was bullying someone could now have a better understanding of his/her hurtful actions. The use of CartoonNetwork.com is also an exceptional way to educate children in a more interactive way.
The CNN town hall special and PEOPLE magazine editorial will also help bring the issue of bullying to the attention of parents and educators. They will be able to learn about the warning signs of bullying and help school officials take action before any serious harm is done. Overall, this new initiative is an effective way to reach many different demographics and hopefully bring some much-needed awareness to the issues of bullying and cyber bullying.
In my fourth book in the Mackenzie Blue series, Mixed Messages (to be released November 23, 2010), I explore what happens when Mackenzie and her crew launches their own social network and it backfires, revealing hurtful thoughts and feelings. All too often we think technology is the problem, but it's just a new tool in the centuries old world of gossip and bullying.
I'm really happy to see media outlets like MTV and now CNN and People taking a stand against bullying, and attempting to be part of the solution, not the problem. Our next step is figuring out how we, as a society, can stop glamorizing bullying. Films like Mean Girls and tv shows like Gossip Girl can be fun, but you have to wonder if they are in some ways glamorizing the bullies. There's definitely more to come on this issue.