The Boston Criminal Lawyer Blog Reviews Nickelodeon’s Anti-Bullying Efforts

It would appear that “kids’ media” is growing up. And the ball they are up at bat to strike is bullying. Massachusetts bullying, New York bullying and Everywhere, U.S.A. bullying.

The cable channel, Nickelodeon, is the most-watched television network among kids ages 2 to 14. Half of young people ages 14-24 said they had been the victim of cyberbullying, according to a survey conducted in late 2009 for The Associated Press and MTV.

The advice offered in one ad featuring Ashley Argota of “True Jackson, VP” and Gage Golightly of “The Troop”: Sign off the computer; don’t reply to a hostile messenger; block bullies from access; make a copy of the message to show to an adult you trust.

Apparently, the program also stresses the message that “It’s not tattle-telling…It’s standing up for yourself.”

The hope is that the anti-bullying effort can become as pervasive and successful as campaigns calling for a designated driver who has not consumed alcohol when friends are out drinking, said James Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media, about their national drunk driving campaign.

The program will begin an on-air public service campaign Monday featuring some of its stars offering advice on what young people should do when confronted with hostile texts, emails or Facebook posts. Miranda Cosgrove and Nathan Kress of Nick’s “ICarly” are also participating in the campaign, which will last for two years, said Marva Smalls, Nick’s executive vice president for public affairs.

Nick will also host a discussion board and have information available on its web page devoted to parents who want to learn about the issue.

“We are happy that our talent agreed to be a part of it because that would make it resonate even more for kids,” Smalls said.

By the way, in case you are unaware, cyber-bullying is now a Massachusetts cyber-crime, as regular bullying is a regular Massachusetts crime.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Anti-Bullying Measures

The issue of Massachusetts bullying, both on and off the computer, and its abysmal anti-bullying statute has long been a rather controversial topic on this daily criminal law blog.

Nationally, of course, it has also gotten a great deal of exposure. The issue climbed to the headlines after South Hadley’s bullying problem resulted in the tragic suicide of Phoebe Prince. Seeing a potential media spotlight, the local district attorney decided to indict a bunch of kids, thereby ruining their lives and, I like to think, heralding the end of her political career.

Not to be outdone, the Massachusetts legislature rushed to pass what it called “the strongest anti-bullying legislation in the country”. That law, however, had no teeth and served, as I predicted, to merely confuse the situation.

Because of my criticism of these approaches, which got a bit of national attention in itself, some people figured I was pro-bully. I was not and am not. I am merely anti-stupidity. Especially in cases, like bullying, where the issues are critically important. I tend to get a twinge in my stomach when I see typical political games played at the expense of our children.

When that happens in the criminal justice system, where people generally do not understand the reality, that’s when the issues come into my territory. And, as I have said, that is the chief propulsion of this blog for me.

Remember the old adage, “And a child will lead them?” Well, it would appear that this is what is going to happen here.

Leave it to “Team Nick”! While politicians (those regularly involved in criminal justice and those who are not) fumble around for the right media “feel good” approach, and schools wring their hands trying to figure out an absurdly vague and overly broad statute and so either over-react or do nothing at all, somebody is actually putting some thought into the matter and taking action with said thought.

It may be that part of the motivation is ratings. If so, so what? That would seem to be the American way! Capitalism at its best! However, it is an approach which the channel did not have to make and one that could actually do some good!

Maybe someday we can even get the adults involved in education, the legal system and law law-making to actually put their heads together and think about the problem enough to help. Here is a hint – it is not going to work to simply throw a bunch of prosecutors in a room to do it; it is not going to work to simply tell school systems “fix it!” with no true guidelines and putting a bunch of regular politicians in a room….well, we have already tried that. Many perspectives are needed to put their heads together and work out a well thought out plan.

Likely to happen soon? Probably not. Like most problems with the criminal justice system, I fear that things are going to have to get a lot worse before they get better…if they ever get better.

Meanwhile, like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, we can only hope that outside efforts, like that which is being tried by Nickelodeon, will do some good.

Until things get better, if you are pulled into the anti-bulling vortex, or any other allegations which bring you into the criminal justice system, get an experienced defense attorney to help…I have also said that once or twice before.

If you would like to discuss a criminal matter with me, please feel free to call me to arrange a free initial consultation at 617-492-3000.

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