Anti-Cyber Bullying Campaign – How the American Bar Association Failed Our Kids

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What do lawyers know about cyber-bullying? Well, actually quite a lot. We’re often the ones crafting the laws or helping law enforcement use existing laws to punish such behavior. But when it comes to communicating to the public that cyber-bullying is wrong, the legal profession got it all wrong!

Cyber-bulling is using the internet and social networking platforms such as Facebook, MySpace (although that was so very 2002!), Twitter, Text, email and other online forms of communication to bully young people. Be it with words or photos or a combination of the two, bullying done within the confines of your own insular space is on the rise.

No longer are there nasty words written on the school’s bathroom stalls for a handfull of girls to see. Instead, it’s text messages filling your cell phone, hateful words streaming in on Facebook and photos, altered or not, used to portray the target as worthless and deserving of such hate and disdain.

So, despite the fabulous work of experts in cyber-bullying the American Bar Association, Anti-Trust Division took it upon themselves to create a PSA to educate the youth of America about cyber-bullying. Don’t get me wrong, these are very smart people. In Anti-Trust law. We’re not talking about experts in teen psychology or cyber-crimes. Anti-Trust law. The stuff of government regulators and corporate board rooms. What do they know about teens and bullying?

Apparently not much! But don’t take my word for it. The following PSA is just about 4 minutes, 30 seconds.

I know what you’re thinking. What The [insert inappropriate word here]!!! The PSA was all kinds of wrong. How wrong? Thanks for asking, here is why this PSA will single-handedly set back all anti cyber-bullying efforts 5+ years.

1. The intro is lame. Who cares that this nobody from 90210 says that cyber-bullying is wrong. There’s no context. Of course it’s wrong! I don’t need some used to be somebody actor to tell me this without any passion.

2. The actors are unbelievable. As in not believable, not as in super awesome! Besides the fact that the three bully girls look more early 20s than teen, their body language and banter are so unnatural and stilted that it doesn’t come off authentic. It looks like acting. Bad acting!

3. It’s 2011, and the 80s want their PSA back! OK, I’ll give it to them that it was filmed in 2010. But even in 2010 bullies used Facebook, MySpace, text messaging and other forms for social networking to taunt their targets. Creating a website? Lame! And honestly, do you really think those three girls could pull it off overnight? I’m not saying they’re incapable, but if they were tech savvy they’d know that obtaining a domain name is not the way to do this.

4. Wrong language. Who was this written by? Seems like some 50-something male partner in a big firm inked out this lameness on his yellow pad over a 3-martini lunch. If you’re going to try and reach young people, know how they speak. Because any kids who sees this will laugh, feign interest, and get back to texting about 22-seconds in.

5. Ridiculous way the school announced Jenna’s death. Given the spate of deaths brought about by cyber-bullying, you don’t have to go very far to see how schools are handling the news. No principal in their right mind would get on the PA system and announce that a student committed suicide. Some educators may be out of touch but they’re not stupid. This isn’t an announcement that there will be no tater tots in the lunch room, this is a child’s death. You’d think maybe the school would want to communicate a student killing themselve in a more meaningful and conscious way.

6. As if the police will show up and remove the girls from class within 30-seconds of the announcement. Get real! Kids today are smarter than this. They’ve lived the reality of classmates doing stupid stuff and posting it on Facebook. They read! The internet! They didn’t have to be 100% authentic, but at least get somewhere close to a C+ effort and at least make it seem more realistic.

7. No solutions were provided. Why further perpetuate that the target deserves to be bullied. Jenna was targeted and taunted. Yet it was her problem to resolve single-handedly. Seriously? She has friends who would come to her rescue. Parents maybe? And you mean to tell me there was no safe adult in the school Jenna could have gone to for help? Where are the solutions? How can you empower someone being bullied if you don’t give them tools for success? It’s a bunch of lawyers creating this PSA, maybe throw in a law or even a suggestion to call the police or tell your parents. But no! You totally dropped the ball, ABA, totally!

and finally,

8. Strategy Fail! From the introduction (albeit lame) I figured I’d be watching a short about how cyber-bullying is bad. Instead I was told that being part of the problem instead of the solution is how to stay cool. I was taught that committing suicide is the only way to put those meanies in their place.

My profession failed. And failed big. The American Bar Association Anti-Trust division dropped the ball and set back anti cyber-bullying education nearly a decade. Cyber-bullying is very real. The names may no longer be familiar, but the friends and family of Megan Meier, Tyler Clementi, Phoebe Prince, Hope Witsell and the many others who endure cyber-bullying know that the psychological impact is huge.

These kids deserve better than what the legal profession provided. If I was more tech and video savvy I’d make my own PSA. I’m pretty sure I could find real kids who are willing to participate and give it an authentic feel. And I’m sure I could find at least five tools and solutions to offer to kids who are being bullied. Even more, I am positive I could use age-appropriate language and mannerisms so kids watching will actually think it’s geared toward them and not some retro after-school special.

What are your thoughts? Am I making a big deal out of nothing?


Image credit: (c) 2011 Sara Hawkins, Saving For Someday



Author: Sara

Sara is a life-long dreamer, creating a list of things she wants to do "someday". Realizing there is no "someday" on the calendar she's taking the steps to make her somedays a reality. Between saving for retirement and college and paying for all the usual things, many women find that they're often putting their hopes and dreams on hold. Saving For Someday is Sara's way of encouraging women everywhere to find ways to save on the ordinary so they can do the extraordinary. Sara is also a licensed attorney and writes about legal issues affecting bloggers, content creators and online professionals. This blog is for informational purposes only. You can also find me on Google+

2 thoughts on “Anti-Cyber Bullying Campaign – How the American Bar Association Failed Our Kids”

  1. Now that you have identified the problem with this video, I hope you can make a better PSA. Your analysis is spot on.

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