Media Guidelines for Bullying Prevention

Media Guidelines for
Bullying Prevention
James Wright, LCPC
Public Health Advisor, SAMHSA
Dan Reidenberg, PSYD
Executive Director, SAVE
Teens’ brains make them more
vulnerable to suicide
Misconceptions about teen suicide abound, said Dr.
Barry N. Feldman, Director of Psychiatric Programs in
Public Safety at the University of Massachusetts
Medical School and a suicide prevention expert.
“Neither bullying, pressure to succeed in sports or
academics, nor minority sexual orientation can cause
suicide, he says, but are among a number of possible
risk factors. If you focus too much on just bullying or
sexual orientation, you take your eye off the underlying
vulnerability a kid may have,” Feldman says.
Jan Brogan, Globe Correspondent, 3/10/14
Development of Best Practices
 Literature review
• “Searches revealed almost no existing research reports on the specific
topic of what effect media coverage of bullying might have on the
• 1 journal article, 1 book (2003), proceedings from 2006 international
online conference
 Stakeholder interviews
• Bullying prevention, media, suicide and youth experts
• Misinformation, what to do/not to do, how to get this out
 Media analysis
• Review of bullying reports in the mainstream media and blogs
• Coverage characteristics, content of 337 articles over 8 months
 Participants
• Panel of experts from multiple fields
Video Clip #1
Olweus Definition
According to OBPP, an individual is being bullied when
he or she is the target of
• Aggressive behavior by another student or students (for
example, when others say mean things, deliberately and
• Systematically ignore someone, physically hurt others,
spread negative rumors, or do other hurtful things), when
• A power imbalance exists between the individuals
involved, and when the bullying behavior usually happens
more than once.
All three conditions must be present for the actions to
constitute bullying behavior.
 Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged
children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The
behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over
 In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive
and include:
• An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power—such as
physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—
to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time
and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.
• Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the
potential to happen more than once.
 Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors,
attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone
from a group on purpose.
Definition of Bullying
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
defines bullying as any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by
another youth or group of youths who are not siblings or
current dating partners that involves an observed or
perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple
times or is highly likely to be repeated. Bullying may inflict
harm or distress on the targeted youth including physical,
psychological, social, or educational harm.
Bullying can occur in-person and through technology.
Electronic aggression or cyber-bullying is bullying that
happens through email, chat rooms, instant message, a
website, text message, or social media.
Pacer’s National Bullying
Prevention Center
Most agree that an act is defined as bullying when:
The behavior hurts or harms another person physically or
The targets have difficulty stopping the behavior directed at
them, and struggle to defend themselves.
• Many definitions include a statement about the ”imbalance of
power”, described as when the student with the bullying
behavior has more “power”, either physically, socially, or
emotionally, such as a higher social status, is physically larger or
emotionally intimidating.
A basic guideline for your child is this: Let the child know
that if the behavior [of another student] hurts or harms
them, either emotionally or physically, it’s bullying.
Emily Bazelon - NYT
The definition of bullying adopted by
psychologists is physical or verbal abuse,
repeated over time, and involving a power
• In other words, it’s about one person with more
social status lording it over another person, over
and over again, to make them miserable.
Main means of mass communication
Goal was to create guidelines for safe and accurate
reporting to help reduce impact of reported bullying
Best Practices
Question which stories about bullying to run
• Does it meet the definition of bullying?
• How will this coverage affect the children and
families involved?
• Does the story reflect reality?
• Will this coverage help audiences better
understand how they can contribute to preventing
Best Practices
Get the entire, balanced story and present it
Try to talk to everyone involved
State the facts
Cover bullying as a public health issue
Remember that bullying affects people’s lives and
Best Practices
Use knowledgeable sources and reputable
• Find an expert
• Use verified statistics and research-based facts
Include information that many stories miss
• Information about those who bully
• Effects of bullying
• Specific ways for individuals to help
Best Practices
Use nuanced, accurate journalism to make
the world safer for kids
Give practical advice on how to prevent bullying
Highlight successful bullying prevention activities
Discuss new prevention research
Point to prevention resources
Stress the positive actions, reactions, and
interventions taking place
What to Avoid
Overstating the problem
Stating or implying the bullying caused a suicide
Oversimplifying issues related to a bullying
Using under-qualified sources
Blaming/criminalizing those who bully
Excluding prevention information and resources
Video Clip #2
Learn More @
Specific examples for media
Community Causal Relationships
• Positive Engagement
– Builds community and
engages many
– Results in positive
• Policies
• Safety
– Increases awareness
• Mental health
• Suicide prevention
– Helps in grieving process
• Negative Engagement
– Enrages others
– Results in negative
• Nothing is done
• Wrong issues are
– Increases shame, blame,
– Creates tension
– Misses underlying issues
contributing to the bullying
Things to Remember
• School climate influences an array of MEB health outcomes for
young people and can be a factor that promotes positive health
or has negative health consequences.
• Students with MEB health disorders are at much higher risk for
an array of problems: academic failure, school drop out,
absenteeism and tardiness, and disruption of the learning
• Media and the use of social media can directly impact the
school climate, either positively or negatively
Things to Remember
• There’s a difference between causation and correlation
• Most research demonstrates that bullying is a risk factor
for many outcomes but is not the only “cause”
• Not all who experience or engage in bullying will have
these outcomes
• Not everyone who has these outcomes was bullied
James Wright
• [email protected]
• 240-276-1854
Dan Reidenberg
• [email protected]
• 612-741-1354
Gladden RM, Vivolo-Kantor AM, Hamburger ME, Lumpkin
CD. Bullying Surveillance Among Youths: Uniform
Definitions for Public Health and Recommended Data
Elements, Version 1.0. Atlanta, GA; National Center for
Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention and U.S. Department of Education; 2013.
David-Ferdon C, Hertz MF. Electronic media and youth
violence: A CDC issue brief for researchers. Atlanta, GA:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2009. Available

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