Ganging Up on Bullies

The major kids-targeted networks will recognize Anti-Bullying Month in October with several on-air and online initiatives.

Bullying remains a huge problem for kids and teens: About 160,000 children miss school each day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students and a child is bullied on a playground every seven minutes and 85% of the time, no one steps in to help, according to the National Education Association. U.S. schools harbor about 2.1 million bullies and roughly 2.7 million of their victims, the National School Safety Center said.

Throughout October, Cartoon Network will air 10-second spots featuring stars from several Turner Entertainment Networks channels promoting bullying prevention, including TBS’s Howie Mandel (Deal With It); TNT’s Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Breckin Meyer (Franklin & Bash), TruTV’s Michael Carbonaro (The Carbonaro Effect); CNN’s Anderson Cooper (Anderson Cooper 360) and Michaela Pereira (New Day), and HLN’s Robin Meade (HLN Morning Express), as well as TV personalities Tony Goldwyn (Scandal), Ken Marino (Marry Me) and Alysia Reiner (Orange Is the New Black).

The videos are part of an on-air campaign to get kids and families to speak up against bullying — part of the ongoing “Stop Bullying Speak Up” campaign, Cartoon Network vice president of social responsibility Alice Cahn said.

“Throughout the month we want to make sure kids, parents and educators are aware that while bullying prevention is something we need to work on 12 months a year, this is the month that really highlights this issue,” Cahn said.

As part of the campaign, the network encouraged people to upload “I Speak Up” mobile videos to the website, and to post anti-bullying messages on Facebook and Twitter to help bring awareness to the issue. At press time, Cartoon had generated 935,000 videos, tweets and Facebook posts toward its goal of 1 million social-media hits.

“This is not just a kids’ issue, but an issue that we all deal with,” Cahn said. “We’ve found that parents and adults are just as interested in this campaign as is our target audience.”

Disney Channel will contribute to the movement with its month-long “Choose Kindness” initiative. The network will run 10 spots focusing on bullying awareness featuring such Disney stars as Olivia Holt (I Didn’t Do It), Rowan Blanchard (Girl Meets World), Sabrina Carpenter (Girl Meets World), Peyton List (Jessie) and Leo Howard (Kickin’ It).

The campaign is pegged to a Sept. 28 episode of the popular series Austin & Ally, in which one of the main characters is bullied in school.

The campaign aims to encourage kids, teens and parents to connect to resources that address and prevent bullying, said Ron Pomerantz, vice president, marketing and creative, at Disney Channel.

Disney called the campaign “Choose Kindness” because the term bullying can often turn off both parents and kids.

“It’s a different way of addressing it,” he said. “We’re taking it from the perspective of our viewers being the person that you want to be all the time and believing in yourself.”

Nickelodeon later this month will roll out a special that focuses on growing up gay in the U.S. The Nick half-hour special Coming Out will premiere Oct. 7 and will follow the everyday lives of gay kids as they face fear, acceptance and bullying as well as show how straight and non-straight teens can come together to triumph over bullying.

Disney’s Pomerantz said that he hopes the industry’s push against bullying will prompt conversations about the issue and help all people deal with the complexities of both the bullies and those who are bullied.

“Everyone has had some experience with bullying, whether on the side of bullying, being bullied or being a witness to bullying,” he said. “We really believe that the conversation matters.”

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.