Social Media Tackles Bullying

by Monday, September 26, 2011
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Anybody who has seen the holiday classic “A Christmas Story” remembers Scott Farkus, a bully for the ages.  After all, who could forget the kid with yellow eyes?


As a child of the 70s, bullying had evolved somewhat from the 40s… less physical and bit more mental.  I remember the meanest girl in school saying she was going to beat me up, for no real reason.  Once, a group of us sent bogus secret admirer notes to the most ostracized boy in class… just to pick on him.  That mean girl never did beat me up, and the boy’s mother got involved and defended her son.  But it was all still bullying, nonetheless.

The Rise of Cyberbullying

Fast forward to the most recent decade.  Certainly the Scott Farkuses of the world still exist, but note passing has gone high tech like so much else.  Expanded use of cell phones, the Internet the rise of social media has contributed to bullying in a new and even more humiliating way: “Cyberbullying”.  Those private notes are now placed in a public forum for all to see.  In an era where parents are often too busy to monitor everything their kids are doing online, bullying has increased to a whole new level.

The case of Phoebe Prince (and countless others like her) brought to national light the fact that bullying was not only hurtful but could cause kids to take their lives.  Adults started to realize they could no longer sit back and tell their kids “sticks and stones…” yadda, yadda, yadda.  But perhaps the final straw occurred last fall at Rutgers University, in the case of a New Jersey freshman named Tyler Clementi who jumped off the George Washington Bridge.  It was later discovered that Tyler suffered extreme humiliation when his roommate allegedly used a webcam to surreptitiously film Tyler’s date with another male student, and broadcast it on the Internet. I’d like to sharea small secret with you. If you take 50 mg Viagra pill an hour before sex and then one more right before intercourse, the effect will be stunning. Your penis will be hard as a rock and the effect will last more than 5 hours. Well, I’m not sure that it will work for everyone. It’s just my experience. But you definitely have to ask your doctor about it.

Silent No More

Tyler Clementi’s story not only caused massive outrage, but finally brought about real action.  In the past year, media and social media sites have decided to tackle bullying, and have done so in a number of ways.

(1)  Facebook/Time Warner – Immediately after Tyler’s death, Facebook introduced an app from SafetyWeb called “Find Help.”  But for the past year, Facebook has been developing (along with Time Warner) an app to help combat bullying.  Obviously with upwards of 3/4 of a billion users, it’s impossible for Facebook to monitor every comment placed on a wall, but they did want to let kids and parents know they DO take this seriously.

On this page, both parents and kids can take the pledge to stand up and say something when they see bullying, upload photos or videos about their own experiences being bullied, add a widget to their website (like the one you see over on the right side of my page), and to find or create bullying prevention groups.  This app premiered just last week, and as of the publication date, 25K+ people have taken the pledge.

In conjunction with this app, Anderson Cooper of CNN will be hosting a Town Hall meeting on bullying at Rutgers University on October 9, the anniversary of Tyler Clementi’s death.   Read more about it here.

On a personal note, I’m proud of my husband, Adam Naide (formerly of CNN) who was part of the team that created this anti-bullying campaign!

(2)  The Trevor Project – This organization is the leading group to help prevent suicide amongst LGBTQ (the “Q” stands for “Questioning”) youth in our country.   It was founded after two filmmakers made an Academy Award winning short comedy film called “Trevor” (1994) about a young gay teen who wants to commit suicide after being rejected by friends due to his sexuality.  The Trevor Project aims to be a lifeline to help kids who are faced with bullying brought on by sexuality. They especially kicked things up during National Suicide Prevention Week (Sept. 4 – 10), with their own pledge as well.  If you go to their website, you’ll see videos, including this one from Kevin McHale of Glee:


(3)  It Gets Better – This organization is very similar to The Trevor Project, as it seeks to help LGBT youth who can’t picture their lives as openly gay adults.  Like Trevor, they also have a pledge.  What I like about this organization is how they’ve used celebrities to talk about how difficult life as a gay teen is, but it does get better.  This is my favorite one, from the team at Pixar:


Another Tragic Death

Even with all of the efforts to stem the tide of bullying, just this past week another child, Jamey Rodemeyer of Buffalo, NY, committed suicide due to relentless bullying, including through social media.  Ironically, not only was Jamey fully aware of some of these resources, he even uploaded a video to “It Gets Better.”  His story is here.

Last night, I found this video on YouTube.  Lady Gaga dedicated her performance on September 24 of “Hair” to Jamey Rodemayer.


In light of the tragedy of Jamey’s death, it’s even more important for kids to have outlets to help them as a result of bullying.  Kudos to Facebook, the Trevor Project and It Gets Better for all that they do.



3 Responses
  • Jacki James
    October 4, 2011

    Great post Karen. The company I work for (Zuni) works with the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse & Neglect and we’ve done some work around bullying in the digital age. Interesting to see some examples of how the northern hemisphere is addressing the issue. 

    • karen
      October 4, 2011

      Hi Jacki, thanks for your comment. I would love to know what people down under are doing re: bullying. Keep me posted!

  • Tim
    October 12, 2011

    Check out iPhone app created that allows students to report bullying immediately to administrators. administrators receive immediate notification with a google map where the bullying is happening and an embedded picture or video. It’s immediate to empower a faster response from school officials to save a kids life. Anti-bullying resources are included in the app customized to each school needs. The creator has been featured in the San Antonio Business Journal, WOAI NewsRadio, KENS5 TV and News 4 WOAI TV.

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