Cartoon Network takes a stand

By Devyne Lloyd
Staff writer

Children’s television channel Cartoon Network realized how important bullying is and decided to take a stand. It started with a definition. According to the Cartoon Network website, bullying is “when someone repeatedly hurts or threatens another person on purpose. Bullying comes in many forms. And it can happen in person, in writing, online, on cell phones, in school, on the bus, at home, anywhere.” The last part of the definition is the most important: “Wherever it happens, it’s NOT acceptable.”

During the fall of 2011, Cartoon Network created and marketed a campaign to promote anti-bullying. It started with a few commercials starring Ali, Jackson and CJ from the show “Dude, What Would Happen.” They present a situation where a newcomer is bullied by another child, and an innocent bystander runs to an adult for help. At the end, they say bullying is wrong and if you see something, say something.

A few months later, more and more anti-bullying commercials began airing on the network. The commercials feature cartoon characters, actors from various shows and celebrities who have been bullied, all joining together for the Stop Bullying, Speak Up initiative. Programming suddenly switched from the Dude commercial to a huge variety: there was an anti-bullying advertisement being played almost every commercial break.

On March 11, Cartoon Network aired a half-hour special entitled Speak Up. The special included stories from celebrities such as NBA player Chris Webber, tennis player Serena Williams and President Barack Obama, and testimonials from real-life victims of bullying. The program is designed to create a discussion, especially within families and schools, about bullying and how it affects people.

The program is very candid. The network warns in the beginning that some of the language is a bit vulgar and may make some people feel uncomfortable. Kevin, a victim, talks about starving himself for a summer because other children were calling him fat. Another child, Aaron, says he was bullied in grade school and his grades suffered as a result of the constant teasing. Jackson Rogow, co-star of Dude, What Would Happen, said that being bullied as a child turned him into a bully after he got older.

The program also discusses solutions. A big theme is communication: victims are encouraged to talk about the incidents with someone and to seek help. Bystanders and witnesses to bullying are encouraged to stand up for the victims and to get help.

One segment featured Alye Pollack, who made a YouTube video in 2011, entitled Words Do Hurt, after being bullied since sixth grade. She talked about how her bullies saw the video and apologized for their actions after watching it. According to Pollack, people even began sticking up for her and other victims after she posted the video. Other victims of bullying saw her video and were inspired to make their own. One year after posting, in March of 2012, she posted another video, Words Do Hurt: 1 Year Later. She encourages other victims to hang in there: it gets better. The video also includes links to the suicide prevention hotline.

Cartoon Network also has a website dedicated to anti-bullying. There are games and literature for children, a page for parents dealing with bullied children and even a page for teachers on how to deal with incidents of bullying in school. There’s also a link to the website of author Rosalind Wiseman, who answers viewer-submitted questions about bullying via a video blog.

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