Cartoon Network Speaks Up on Bullying Prevention
Bullying affects people at every stage of their lives, but those most vulnerable to it are the ones who experience it in America's school yards. Last year, Cartoon Network commissioned a survey and found that two thirds of kids experience bullying once or twice throughout their youth. In support of National Bullying Prevention Month in October, NCTA talked with Cartoon Network Senior Vice President of Marketing and Partnerships Jill King to find out how the network makes this issue a vital part of its mission to serve America's children.
It's been eight years since Cartoon Network launched its campaign, Stop Bullying: Speak Up. King explained that the campaign has evolved over time to serve the needs and interests of the current generation's children, which she called the most diverse generation yet. "It's really important for us to evolve with the kids that we represent," said King. At the end of the day, bullying prevention is still the number one social issue for kids and parents, she added.
This campaign year stood out from the rest because it marked the first year that survey data came directly from kids. While there was a lot of data out there on bullying prevention methods, there was hardly any national representative data coming directly from young elementary students. Cartoon Network partnered with Harvard's Making Caring Common project on this original body of research, which uncovered several important findings, including the idea that kids who prioritize caring about others end up bullying less. Kids also responded that they wanted examples and ideas from other kids on what to do and how to intervene when they see others being bullied.
With these insights in mind, Cartoon Network set out to show children how to stop this kind of behavior when they see it happening. First, the network expanded its partnership with 826 National, a creative writing-based volunteer youth organization, to collect stories from kids all over the country who have witnessed bullying and to encourage them to share the steps they took to stop it. In turn, the network animated selected stories and turned them into 30-second PSAs to help other children learn from what other kids their own age did in these uncomfortable situations.
The network is now distributing these stories over its air waves and its social media channels, as well as in person at 826 National chapters. "We look at the power of our air as a platform to elevate what kids are saying and what kids are doing,” said King. The campaign also distributes physical kits to school teachers and afterschool providers who could sign up to receive curricula from 826 National, helping to expand the campaign's reach beyond the 826 National footprint. Moving forward, the network plans to field a survey to measure the social impact of this year's campaign. The campaign continues to receive feedback from kids and there are plans to animate more stories in the future.
King explained that Stop Bullying: Speak Up is just one of the many ways that the network uses television to promote kindness among kids and to represent them in a very authentic way. The network even uses its commercials to teach kids about empathy, to build positive body image attitudes and to prevent teasing. And of course, it relies on its shows to make a difference in children's lives. Shows like Steven Universe, which takes place in a stereotype-free world, serve to encourage unconditional acceptance and to tackle complex issues and topics that are hard to discuss in real life.
"I think both teachers and parents have recognized Cartoon Network as a leader in this space. We've been so consistent with this program [Stop Bullying: Speak Up] and evolving it. We leverage all of our assets. We also pull in our characters and we know that kids love our characters," said King. "The fact that we are part of Turner and WarnerMedia means we can continue to reach not only kids but parents, teachers, and community members with this message."