Bullying In The Media

Bullying in the Media
By: Amanda Horine

Bullying in the Media
There is an outbreak of bullying spreading through our society. Over the last few decades more and more attention has been placed on bullying and its effects on the younger generations.With the rise of bullying and the effects it is having, people all over the nation are starting to take more of an interest in ways to bring awareness about bullying in hopes of ending it.
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, bullying is “to treat abusively, to affect by means of force or coercion, to use browbeating language or behavior” (Bullying, 2012). Bullying   can be anything from physical and/or verbal actions which inflict hurt, pain, or stress on another person. This includes hitting, name calling, picking on, destroying someones property, using social media and technology to send threatening messages and so on.
      Bullying is a growing problem in our society because of all the different ways someone can be bullied. In decades pasted, bullying was mostly done on the play ground at school or in the neighborhood. As society has become more technology driven, it has become easier for bullying to take place over the Internet, through social networking sites and through text-messaging using cell phones, known as cyber bullying (Kowalski, 2007). 
With the ever growing ways to bully, many people have begun to take notice and want to end the bullying epidemic our society is facing. An anti-bullying movement has begun to sweep the nation. A person can not turn on their television or log on to the Internet without seeing a broadcast or article about anti-bullying. There are several different ways the anti-bullying movement has tried to combat bullying and all have some more of media as their way to spread their message. 
One way is to show social support to those being bullied is through social media. According to Smith (2004), a coping strategy for some people who are being bullied is to seek help. The availability of supportive peer systems allows those being bullied to seek help and deal with the issues they are facing. Organizations like the http://www.bullying.org/ allows people who are being bullied a place to share their experiences and communicate with other people who have been bullied. There is a page of the site for those who have been bullied to share their thoughts through letters, poetry, pictures, music, and audio recordings, as well as, join a support group. Websites like these, give hope to those who are being bullied that things can change for them and that they are other people all over the nation and world who are going through the same experiences. It gives the victim of bullying hope. 
On the flip side, not having social support can be very damaging to victims of bullying. Lack of support can increases low self esteem, feelings of loneliness, and suicidal tendencies (Matsunaga, 2011). Therefore it is important for individuals dealing with bullies to have a place where they can find help and social support. They need to be able to experience positive interactions with people through affirmations of positivity and empathy. Places like Bullying.org enable people who have been bullied to experience their feelings. Victims of bullying go through an array of  emotions from feelings of hurt, anger, and being scared (Kowalski, 2007). For those who do not have the chance to seek social support, in extreme cases the effects of bullying can be deadly. When this happens, it is broadcasted all over television sets and Internet sites. 
Since the horrific events of the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, the public has seen how bullying and teasing can lead some children to use violence as a coping mechanism. Media coverage of these events look straight to the shooter’s past and how they were treated in their schools. Journalist ask the shooters peers and schools mates about the his/her demeanor, how they were treated, were they bullied, were they a loner, were they anti-social and so on. The media then relays this information to the public, stating the shooter were bullied or teased by their peers. (Leary, et al., 2003). More often then not, the media states that bullying is the cause for school shootings. They portray the shooter as a troubled child, with violent tendencies and a need for revenge on those who have done them wrong. The media plays a large part providing information to the public on the effects of school bullying.
Not all media coverage on bullying is negative. As mentioned before, some people in our society have formed and participating in an anti-bully movement. The movement has used all types of media is get their message across. Their use of social media and news media have been a staple in getting the word out. Most recently, celebrity spokespeople and documentaries about bullying have been the main tool for the movement. 
Over the past few years, celebrities have been speaking out about their childhood’s and how they were bullied as children. According to Toncar et al. (2007), messages given by celebrities produce “a higher degree of appeal, attention and message recall.” Celebrities such as, Ellen Degeneres, Drew Brees and Justin Bieber have used their celebrity to speak out and try to end bulling. They have given interviews in which they tell stories of being bullied at school because they dressed differently or were interested in different things then their peers. They have used their fame to grab the attention of their fans to help stop the bullying epidemic. 
Our society today it driven by what celebrities are doing, what they are wearing, etc. By celebrities speaking out and taking a stand against bullying, their hope is to send of a message and kindness, to send courage to those being bullied to seek help and to change the way we treat each other. Their aim is to take the negative experiences of bullying they went through and hopefully stop the cycle for the younger generation. Will the message be taken seriously? In depends of the credibility of the celebrity (Toncar et al., (2007). According to Toncar et al. (2007), expertise and trustworthiness are crucial to credibility of the celebrity. If a celebrity has the expertise, such as personal experience, people are more likely to respond to their message. As well as, if the celebrity is perceived as trustworthy their message will also have a positive response and encourage victims of bullying to speak up and seek help.
Celebrities are not the only people who can use the media to help spread their anti-bullying message to the public. Most recently, a documentarian by the name of Lee Hirsch set out to make a documentary simply titled, Bully, about children and families of children who were or have been bullied and how it effected their lives. Toncar et al. (2007), not only looked at celebrity spokesperson but a victim of the situation as a spokesperson. The authors found, the “victim” spokesperson was seen as more credible and believable. Therefore it is logical to say that a documentary centered around victims of bulling telling their first hand experiences will make a greater impact. Victims of bullying are able to see themselves in the children on the screen and better relate to them. Once again a form of media has played a role in getting the word out to the public about bullying. 
One form of media or another is always around us in today’s ever growing technological society. Wether it be a television broadcast on the news, an Internet site devoted to prevention, social networking sites, or celebrity spokesman, media exposure is apart of our everyday lives. There are many ways for those who are being bullied to get help, or find help for someone you may know that is being bullied. There is a National Stand Up to Bullying Day. On this day people all around the world stand together against bullying by raising awareness while wearing pink shirts with the saying “STOOD UP.” If you would like to stand up against bullying, you can go to http://www.standupday.com/.
There are also many nonprofit organizations who provide hotlines for people to call if they just need someone to listen to their problems and/or help them find local help centers. An amazing organization called, The Trevor Project, provide LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Questioning) youth a place to go when they need a shoulder to lean on and an ear to listen to them. You can click on the following link to find out more about The Trevor Project and how they can help, http://www.thetrevorproject.org/. Visit the sites mentioned above, watch the film Bully and start to help end bullying!
Bullying. (2012). Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved April 11, 2012, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bullying
Kowalski, R. M. (2007). Teasing and bullying. In B. Spitzberg & W. Cupach (Eds.), The dark side of interpersonal communication (2nd ed., pp. 169-197). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Leary, M.R., Kowalski, R. M., Smith, L., and Phillips, S. (2003) Teasing, rejection, and violence: Case studies of the school shootings. Aggressive Behavior, 29, 202-214.
Matsunaga, M. (2011). Underlying circuits of social support for bullied victims: An appraisal-based perspective on supportive communication and postbullying adjustment. Human Communication Research, 37(2), 174-206. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.uky.edu/ehost/detail?vid=21&hid=106&sid=6630c9eb-bcb1-44dd-a31c-febf4a264921%40sessionmgr113&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=ufh&AN=5870264
Smith, P. K. (2004). Bullying: Recent developments. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 9(3), 98-103. Retrieved from http://stmaryseminars.tripod.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/3smith.pdf
Toncar, M., Reid, J.S., Anderson, C.E. (2007). Effective spokespersons in a public service announcement: National celebrities, local celebrities and victims. Journal of Communication Management, 11(3), 258-275.


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