reaching the kids

Just How Helpful Was BET’s 106 & Park Anti-Bullying Special?

Last week BET aired a “Stop Bullying” special on weekday video show 106 & Park. They had the requisite experts. The requisite teens. The requisite mothers. All in all, it was a decent start for the Viacom-owned network to continue the conversation about bullying to a majority black audience, which, like LGBTs at large, often get ignored by mainstream media outlets. That’s changing, and it’s efforts like this special that are helping. And while I didn’t find anything useful to come out of the mouths of these experts, I do appreciate BET giving a voice to kids who deal with being ostracized and harassed by classmates.

Is any of this groundbreaking stuff to Queerty readers? No, but that’s not the point. Bullying thrives when it’s ignored. Bullying is confronted when we challenge it. And that starts with having a conversation — here, on national television — about the causes and effects.

Seeing young people, like in the video below, talk about how bullying has changed with technology can help clue parents into what happens when they hand their kid a cell phone.

Here, famous folks like Jamie Foxx discuss what they went through as kids, though the clip moves so quickly and offers little in the way of substance that it’s just a way for BET to include the celebrity angle.

And one the bravest faces of childhood bullying is Sirdeaner Walker, whose 11-year-old boy Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover hung himself after being taunted with anti-LGBT bullying. This is the woman who can speak directly to other moms and dads about what happens when schools fail to protect their children.

But my favorite part of the special was hearing from actual teens, who face teasing for how they dress, act, and look every day. But these aren’t just sob stories. They are veritable It Gets Better videos, showing how these tweens and teens are turning a shitty situation into one worth living for.

And then, ugh, we hear from one young man who says his parents contacted the school about his bullying, and it only made things worse.

Is a BET special going to immediately keep kids safe in and out of school? Of course not. But what BET and other youth-focused media are experts at doing is branding and influence. And what this show did was move the needle just a bit more towards branding bullying as uncool — the most serious of offenses when you’re a kid trying to fit in. And if anything gets impressionable youth to change their behavior, it’s telling them that Facebook harassment, verbal abuse, and shoving classmates to the ground doesn’t up their social standing. It makes them look like douchebags.