Cartoon Network has announced a new anti-bullying campaign that begins next fall and includes special cartoon content, public service ads, an online curriculum and even complementary programming on CNN for parents. And while anti-bullying campaigns may not be anything new, this one takes a unique approach.
Rather than aiming the message at the bullies or even the victims of bullies, Cartoon Network is hoping to reach those who witness bullying behavior. By giving the often-silent bystander the tools and knowledge they need to intervene, the hope is that they will be empowered to stand up for what is right.
The program is aimed at kids in middle school where experts say bullying is most common. Cartoon Network’s Alice Cahn says the idea is to reach kids at an age when parents and teachers are becoming less influential in their lives.
“There’s never been a sustained approach aimed at the audience that’s growing away from teacher/parent involvement in their lives and is beginning to make decisions for themselves. We can be that expert source to help them stop a problem we know is really bothering them.”
Harvard Medical School psychologist Ronald Slaby says that this “bystander strategy” is our best bet for putting an end to kid-on-kid abuse. Because despite the fact that 85% of all bullying incidents are witnessed by others, only about one-fifth of the time do the bystanders intervene.
The campaign’s approach is the result of data collected from polls of the kids who regularly tune in to Cartoon Network. While the majority reported feeling helpless to do anything about war or economic problems, they felt that bullying was an issue in which they could make a difference.
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