Standing Up to Bullies, Year-Round

Programmers are pledging to keep up the
fight against bullying in schools and online even after the
month-long national recognition of the issue concludes at
the end of October.

While National Bullying Prevention Month has brought
a lot of attention to the issue of bullying among kids, cable
executives say the effort
needs to continue throughout
the year to confront the

More than one-third of
middle and high school students
reported being bullied,
and 4% of students reported
being bullied online, according
to the National Center for
Education Statistics.

“The world is very different
than it was during earlier
generations — there was a
day when bullying just took
place on the school ground
and ended by the end of the
day,” Stu Snyder, president
and chief operating officer
of Turner Animation, Young
Adults & Kids Media, said.
“Now in today’s new world,
between what happens in
school and cyber-bullying,
unfortunately bullying could
be and is a 24/7 business. And that’s a true problem for
someone who’s a victim.”


Kids-targeted Cartoon Network, under Snyder’s purview,
is finalizing a 30-minute special scheduled to air in early
2012 that will tackle the issue from a kid’s point of view, as
part of the network’s ongoing “Stop Bullying: Speak Up”
campaign. The multiplatform campaign gives kids and
parents tools to encourage kids to recognize and report
bullying in their schools.

Cartoon Network and other Time Warner Inc. media
properties, including CNN, recently teamed with Facebook
to launch a social pledge app to get commitments
from kids and parents to stop bullying in their own neighborhoods.

Snyder said each day in the U.S., 160,000 kids skip
school because they’re afraid of being bullied. But when
a bystander speaks up, the bullying incident ends within
10 seconds and, overall, the incidence of bullying is reduced
by half.

“Our main objective is to empower kids and adults with
the tools and resources to deal with this critical and important
issue,” Snyder said. “With kids and families being
our audience, we feel we should be giving them what they
feel they need.”

WWE (formerly World Wrestling Entertainment) is taking the message
directly to students with monthly school visits by such
WWE “Superstars” as Sheamus and John Cena to discuss
how to stop bullying as part of the “Be a STAR (Show Tolerance
and Respect)” initiative.

Launched in April, the program encourages kids and
parents to discuss and find ways to eliminate bullying in
schools. Along with running public-service spots during
WWE shows, the programmer has teamed with the National
Education Alliance to create a downloadable curriculum
for teachers to use at schools.

Stephanie McMahon, WWE executive vice president
of creative, said more than
2,000 teachers have downloaded the curriculum, which
will be available throughout the 2011-12 school year.

“The purpose is to encourage children to speak up when
they see bullying and to teach confidence, and it’s to encourage
others to interfere or report to someone when they
see bullying,” she said. “It’s a very important message in
today’s society: You hear stories all the time of all of these
children being affected to the point of sometimes taking
their own lives.”

MTV is focusing its efforts on the growing issue of cyber-
bullying through its Digital Rights Project — part of
the network’s “A Thin Line” pro-social campaign.


The network has a major multimedia promotion slated to
launch in December around the project, which is an online,
youth-led effort where teens and young adults can
declare and discuss their fundamental rights in a 24/7
connected world. More than 30,000 young people added
their names to support that effort in the first two weeks after
it launched.

In the meantime, MTV will continue to create and
run PSAs around the issue — it has already developed 18
anti-bullying spots — Jason Rzepka, MTV vice president
of public affairs, said.

MTV will offer schools an anti-cyber-bullying curriculum
based on its original film DISconnected, which premiered
on the network Oct. 10 and is loosely based on the
story of Abraham Biggs, a young man who streamed his
own suicide live on the Web.

“We’re asking young people to amplify their voices
around what they believe they deserve and they’re entitled
to when interacting with others online,” Rzepka said.
“It’s part of changing the conversation and bringing it back
to what our audience deserves.”

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.