By Anne Collier
I think the very reason why this year’s big-media anti-bullying campaign featuring CNN’s Anderson Cooper has a much more effective message – “Stop Bullying: Speak Up” – is because a social media partner’s involved. Last year, Cooper was host of a TV special report, “Bullying: No Escape,” sponsored by Time Inc., CNN, and Cartoon Network, eSchoolNews reports. This year a more positive and appropriately user-driven approach: the usual mixed-media campaign (print, broadcast, and online) but now including a town hall meeting – “to get parents, teachers, and youth speaking about cyberbullying prevention” – that Cooper will host. It doesn’t matter that the town hall part isn’t new; what matters is that it’s consistent with the only way to accomplish change on the social Web: collectively. It doesn’t matter that the town hall part isn’t new; what matters is that it’s consistent with the only way to accomplish change on the social Web: collectively. Safety, privacy, bullying mitigation, and all other goals for social spaces, online or offline, are shared propositions. Facebook had to adopt social reporting; no social-media property can be the sole arbiter of user wellbeing when it’s the users who create the product collectively, changing it hour by hour, uploading 4 billion new items (photos, comments, messages, and other tiny representation of their lives) every day (see ZDNET). The new campaign is also a huge step forward because it says, “Speak Up” – it focuses on the bystanders, the kids who see bullying and cyberbullying happen and can turn the situation around. Empowering the bystander is what bullying prevention experts say can really create change.
But I have to take eSchoolNews to task for their sourcing on research; their sources were at best very dated. They didn’t need to dig back so far; authors and professors Sameer Hinduja and Justin Patchin (the latter at this past spring’s bullying prevention summit at the White House) just completed a review of the literature on cyberbullying, finding that, on average “approximately 20%” of students have experienced cyberbullying in their lifetimes. Their lit review can be found in a just-released book, Cyberbullying Prevention and Response (disclosure: I contributed a chapter, “A ‘Living Internet’: Some Context for the Cyberbullying Discussion”). Facebook and Time Warner are the partners presenting “Stop Bullying: Speak Up.”