Miami University Assistant Professor Anthony Peguero has teamed up with Cartoon Network to create a multi-platform anti-bullying campaign.
Peguero, a professor of sociology and gerontology at Miami, said Cartoon Network contacted him more than a year ago to be part of an advisory group for an anti-bullying campaign.
He said network executives were most interested in targeting “the bystander effect.”
“It is estimated that more than 75 percent of students have witnessed bullying at their school,” Peguero said via e-mail.
Airing last week on Anderson Cooper 360, Cartoon Network’s public service announcement (PSA) is the first of many to hit airwaves, according to Peguero. He said the PSAs target young males, Cartoon Network’s key demographic.
“It became evident early on that Cartoon Network’s audience of young men and boys … was to be the target of the campaign,” Peguero said. “We on the advisory board made it clear the campaign should try to reach as many members of the school and community as possible.”
Peguero said PSA spots on CNN were geared toward adults, highlighting the campaign’s multi-platform structure.
He said while the campaign targets teens and adolescents, he doesn’t believe America’s youth is solely to blame.
“I don’t think youth have changed, I think it’s our schools that have changed,” Peguero said. “Schools have become sites of ‘uber’ competition … One consequence of this is that students see their peers as competition and not as fellow human citizens.”
Ann Fuehrer, associate professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies, said society perpetuates individual gain, and as a result, students tend to attack one another.
“I think we are a very individualistic and competitive nation,” Fuehrer said. “If only a few people can succeed, many people are left trying find ways to feel good about themselves, and they do this by … treating other people badly.”
Fuehrer also said parental influence is responsible for the current bullying crisis.
“Unfortunately, some people model (discriminatory) behavior for their children,” she said. “It’s all about feeling good about ourselves in a culture that makes us feel bad.”
Peguero said attitudes toward bullying do not always reflect its severity. He said many individuals discount bullying as a “normal” part of youth experience.
“Ultimately, our nation’s discourse on bullying is at the core of this social problem,” Peguero said. “Somehow, and over many generations, bullying has reached normative social and cultural status within our schools.”
David Morgan, a junior and co-president of SPECTRUM, agreed with Peguero’s sentiments about attitude. He said failing to reprimand children for using derogatory speech is a cause of bullying and homophobia.
“I think a lot of it could be parental,” Morgan said. “If your child is saying ‘that’s gay’ and you are not calling them out, they think it’s acceptable.”
With the recent slew of teen suicides, Peguero recognized the convenient timing of his campaign. He said while cyber-bullying is on the national radar, targeting one facet of bullying will not solve the problem.
“Needless to say, there is no single ‘silver-bullet’ that could vanquish all bullying,” he said.
Cartoon Network will release more anti-bullying PSAs in the coming year.