Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cartoon Network Tackles Bullying

Bullying has been all over the news in Massachusetts the last few months, and many of the headlines have gained attention nationally. Bullying is a hot topic (the teenage pregnancy of 2010, as I say), and viewpoints about the issue run the gamut.

Today it was announced the Cartoon Network is planning an anti-bullying campaign directed at middle school students. As Neil Swidey mentioned in a recent piece for the Boston Globe Magazine (and many anti-bullying curricula address) the role of the bystander in bullying situations is critical in defusing bullying situations (see an earlier post of mine in the topic). By focusing on the role of the bystander, the network is going to feature anti-bullying content directly in their cartoons, advertisements, and an online curriculum. CNN is partnering with Cartoon Network to provide information for parents to supplement the information kids receive. As mentioned in the article linked above, the "bridging of generations" is a unique element to this campaign. It's fighting a two front war on bullying, and as Hitler found out, two front wars are tough to fight if you're in the middle.

Bullying has always been around, and the attitudes prevalent when adults were children may not apply anymore. Today's middle school students have to deal with around the clock access to bullying through technology: cell phones, Facebook, and other media devices are all culprits in today's bullying age; not to mention the "old fashioned" methods. Cartoons have also been around for a while, and this process is simply taking something that currently exists and tweaking it to fit a need of the times.

I give a big thumbs up to the network for going after this topic after a poll of their audience (children) listed bullying as a main concern...which was not at the top of the list for parents. The campaign plans to use teachable moments in their cartoons, and the online component will contain more information too. Teachable moments might as well be under my interests on Facebook...I point them out whenever I can, about any topic (even unrelated to health), in my classroom. I will point out that this does not replace the need for parents to have timely, important conversations with their children about bullying and other loaded adolescent issues.

Efforts like this on a variety of health topics are needed in order to address the multitude of issues facing today's youth. There are clearly companies willing to tackle the tough issues. We need more motivated, enthusiastic, outside-the-box-thinking individuals to step up to the box! The Cartoon Network and CNN partnership could be a precedent for the future. Imagine the combinations that could be formed to tackle issues!

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