In a local high school this weekend, I spotted a few anti-bullying posters targeted at students. In bright colors and block letters, they said things like: “This is a Bully-Free Zone.”
While I’m sure I could see posters like that in many American schools, and while the aim of posting them is certainly good, I find it hard to imagine that they are really the thing that is causing a child on the verge of bullying a peer to stop and think. Perhaps they serve to remind victims of bullying that schools take their experiences seriously, reminding them that they should seek help if they need it.
But what kinds of messages can schools use to remind would-be perpetrators that their words and actions have consequences? Because everyone disagrees on what bullying actually is, and because students don’t always identify their own behaviors as bullying, perhaps a demonstration would be more effective than a poster in the hallway. That’s where a clever, powerful video created for the Canadian Safe School Network comes in.
The video is based on those fun clips from the Jimmy Kimmel show, where celebrities read mean things people tweet to them with an obvious lack of concern that there are real people reading their words. Here’s a clip from the Kimmel show to give you the idea (warning: some swearing).
Canadian agency John St used the same concept, swapping out normal kids for celebrities.
“It’s easy to laugh at rich celebrities reading some of the terrible things people have said about them online. We condone it. We even revel in it,” the advertiser, Canadian Safe School Network, said in a statement to AdWeek. “But this same behavior is turning almost 40 percent of Canadian kids into victims of cyberbullying. It’s a growing epidemic that invades their lives and leaves many feeling like there’s no way out.”
What do you think? How should schools help students understand that their words have consequences? Have you identified an effective approach?
Update: A reader suggests the end of this video seems to suggest suicide as a response to bullying. That would certainly be a dangerous message. I’m curious if others perceived it that way also.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.