Media companies such as CNN, Cartoon Network, Facebook, and Time Inc. have started an online anti-bullying campaign designed to raise awareness.
The companies launched the "Stop Bullying, Speak Up" Facebook page to give students and parents a place to voice their support for victims of bullying. The webpage also includes tips to resist bullying, a map of everyone who has "spoken up" against bullying, and a place to register a "bullying prevention group" in schools. CNN's Anderson Cooper is also hosting a town-hall style meeting with anti-bullying experts on his show, Anderson Cooper 360°, Oct. 9.
The campaign was designed to give students power, according to Alice Cahn, Cartoon Network's vice president for social responsibility. Each year, the network polls viewers about the issues they find most concerning and the issues they feel could be changed for the better.
"Kids feel hopeless about changing issues like the economy and the war," she says. "But kids say they have watched their friends getting bullied and feel like they could do something about it."
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about a quarter of high school students were bullied at least once during the 2008-2009 school year, although some experts estimate the number is much higher. About 70 percent of parents say that their child has been bullied, according to a recent survey sponsored by ADT Security Services.
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"All the research shows that having a group of 'active bystanders' can help safely intervene against bullies," Cahn says. So far, more than 420,000 people have liked the page, and 48,000 people have taken a virtual pledge saying they will speak up if they see bullying.
Earlier this week, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley joined in the effort when he took the pledge. In a statement, he said bullying needs to stop in order to improve the U.S. education system.
"We challenge Marylanders and all Americans to speak up and become involved in this initiative," he said. "Together, we can return to the work of building up our children's future."
Joel Kaplan, a Facebook official, said in a statement that the company's social network would allow students' messages to spread more quickly. "We believe we have a shared responsibility to educate both parents and teens about safety," he said.
Although many instances of cyber bullying occur on Facebook, Cahn, of Cartoon Network, says the platform can be used for good. "We hope kids will see that their friends took the pledge and think, 'If I can talk about this with my friend online, I can talk about this with my friends in the hallway, too,'" she says.