Media Mogul Funds Anonymous Texting Program to Report Bullies

Carrie Schmelkin : Gossip from the Hallways
Carrie Schmelkin
Web Editor, TMC

Media Mogul Funds Anonymous Texting Program to Report Bullies

Whether it is bringing a teacher’s attention to a cheater, ratting out your best friend to her parents when you find out she is developing an eating disorder or tattling on a classmate to the principal when the kid threatens you, the process of calling someone out is daunting and never easy.

But one 89-year-old media mogul is setting out to change that.

This fall, an anti-bullying initiative will be introduced to Los Angeles, Calif. students that will allow the teens to anonymously report threats of violence to school officials through text messages. And the person to thank for this is Sumner Redstone, the chairman of Viacom Inc., which includes MTV Networks, Nickelodeon and CBS Corp. Yesterday, Redstone donated $100,000 to the Safe to Talk Fund program – money which will be used to establish a service called SchoolTipline in schools within the Los Angeles Unified School District.

SchoolTipline is a texting platform that permits students to use their cell phones to report threats of suicide and violence and the presences of guns and drugs on campus without having to identify themselves.

"You can't have a quality education without a safe environment, and that's the whole point of my contribution," Redstone said in an interview Monday. "This will allow students to report violence, bad behavior and threats of bad behavior, without being identified -- and without fear of retaliation."

With the $100,000 donation, the district will be able to train students, teachers and school officials and pay for the technology and texting time, according to Fraser Nelson, executive director of the Community Foundation of Utah, which is overseeing the Safe to Talk Fund nationwide.

According to recent statistics, the travesty of bullying is showing no signs of slowing any time soon as about 42 percent of kids have been bullied while online, with one in four being verbally attacked more than once; 77 percent of students have admitted to being the victim of one type of bullying or another; and an estimated 35 percent of kids have been threatened online. Moreover, the American Justice Department bullying statistics show that one out of every four kids will be bullied sometime throughout their adolescence. But even though bullying instances are so common, kids are reluctant to move from bystanders to anti-bullying advocates.

“There are a lot of kids who want to speak up but they are afraid that they will get hurt too," Nelson said. Text messaging is the communications tool of choice for young people, she said, adding, "It’s another way to have the dialogue" about discouraging bullying.

Any campaign that encourages students to take a stand against instances of bullying or violence is a campaign worth implementing. Over the past few years it has become painfully evident that the cycle of victimization and cyberbullying is not curtailing any time soon and, therefore, it is campaigns like these that can give kids enough courage to help curb the cycle. Administrators and parents can do all they want to stop the vicious behavior, but until students start looking out for students, we will get nowhere.

I commend Redstone for his efforts and for his keen insight in realizing that the place to start with regards to bullying is with students themselves. I encourage all celebrities to do more than just publically declare their commitment to eradicating bullying; instead, I encourage them to use their means and influence to implement specific programs that will empower kids. 

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