David Schwimmer's Trust and two anti-bullying videos that might do more harm than good. (VIDEO)

The new world of online cruelty.
April 4 2011 4:45 PM

How Not To Prevent Bullying

Two anti-bullying videos that might do more harm than good.

Read the rest of Emily Bazelon's  series on cyberbullying

(Continued from Page 1)

Wylie Tene, the public relations manager of the AFSP, told me that Bergen County wrote back to defend the video as aimed at preventing cyberbullying, not suicide. But isn't it wrongheaded to ward off bullying with materials that suicide professionals think could put kids at risk of the worst possible outcome? I called the prosecutor's office twice to ask that question and didn't get a call back. According to NorthJersey.com, the Park Ridge Police Department, which trains police and educators to present the video, recognizes that "This isn't a film you just show to students," as Lt. Joseph Rampolla put it. The prosecutor's office holds 90-minute training sessions and the video comes with a teaching guide.

But it's hard to see how a few hours of training makes up for the flaws with this whole package. Willard points out that the teaching materials include true/false questions that make it seem as if sexting and cyberbullying are more widespread than they are. ("Many teens post inappropriate images of themselves online. True!!! Most teens have harassed or bullied at least one other person online. True!!!!"—well, actually, false!!!!). The problem with this approach is that it makes bad behavior seem normal and even expected, rather than deviant. "The most important point is that most kids don't bully," says Larry Magid, a director of ConnectSafely.org, a nonprofit Internet safety organization. "It's a small percent of outcasts who do that. The 'norm' is to treat each other respectfully. And since kids want to be normal' they should emulate what most of their peers do and not be jerks." Here's more on this idea, from Magid's co-director, Anne Collier.

Advertisement

To be fair to David Schwimmer, Trust isn't nearly as dreadful as these other two videos. Schwimmer consulted with a rape foundation in Santa Monica about his film. While the scenario he presents of an adult preying on a teenager online is rare, according to the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, it does happen. Hemanshu Nigam, a former federal prosecutor who has worked on these kinds of cases, wrote that as he watched the movie, "I kept thinking how much TRUST is true to life in the digital century."

The problem with the film, though, is that it offers a bad model for how parents should deal with a kid spending time online. When they see her constantly texting and IM-ing, Annie's parents don't ask her about what she's doing. After the rape, her mother talks about how her daughter is ruined and the father acts as if she is. In the last scene between Annie and her father, there is a mawkish nod to reconciliation, but it's unconvincing. Thankfully Truth is far too somber and heavy to draw much of a teen audience. For parents, I guess it could work as an anti-model: Here's what not to do, from start to finish.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.