The White House is enlisting some media help in a new campaign against schoolyard bullying, including Facebook and MTV.
Facebook says it will release two new safety features in the coming weeks: a re-designed Safety Center with multimedia, expert resources and downloadable information for teens. A new "Social Reporting" system allows members to report content that violates Facebook policies so that it can be removed, while notifying parents or teachers.
In 2008, Lori Drew of Missouri was convicted of cyberbullying after she created a phony account on another social networking site, MySpace, and harassed her teenaged daughter's rival into committing suicide.
The MTV network said it would launch an anti-digital discrimination coalition to fight bullying and intolerance online. MTV will work with the National Council of La Raza, Anti-Defamation League, Council on American-Islamic Relations, and anti-gay-discrimination group GLAAD). MTV also announced a feature film inspired by the case of 19-year-old Abraham, who had bipolar disorder and webcast his suicide after being egged on by online followers.
The do-it-yourself online survey tool SurveyMonkey said it had created a dedicated page for bullying detection. It includes a 10 question survey that students can use.
Another social network, Formspring, is working with the Massachussetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab to develop new approaches to detect online bullying, and develop interfaces to help prevent it, using artificial intelligence.
And the White House is launching its own website, StopBullying.gov, to provide information on what bullying is, its risk factors, its warning signs and its effects.
President Obama shared his own experience having been bullied. "As adults, we all remember what it was like to see kids picked on in the hallways or in the schoolyard. And I have to say, with big ears and the name that I have, I wasn't immune," Obama told a White House event. "I didn't emerge unscathed."
The White House estimates that nearly one-third of all school-aged children are bullied each year, which adds up to 13 million student or more. "Students involved in bullying are more likely to have challenges in school, to abuse drugs and alcohol, and to have health and mental health issues.," the White House said in a statement.
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