In addition to having education in the schools, parental awareness and open communication in the homes, and lawmakers doing their part to enforce strict rules and consequences for those who choose to cyberbully, it’s important for teens that have been cyberbullied to have an avenue where they can share their experiences, provide their advice, and in the process, help others. That’s exactly what MTV’s been doing with their “A Thin Line” campaign.
A Thin Line acts as an extremely useful resource for teens by providing them with information on issues like sexting, cyberbullying, and online cruelty. They also offer information and advice on more specific topics like how “constant messaging” from a boyfriend or girlfriend can turn into harassment, or how spying on someone’s text messages or social network inbox can lead to more serious forms of harassment such as stalking.
Some samples of what teens will find on their site:
“The best defense is a good offense. Keep your personal information private. Names, addresses, license plate numbers, where you work, your date of birth, your social security number—nobody online needs these. Zip it.”
“Bite your thumb. Even though you have the perfect comeback, control yourself: Responding to mean or threatening messages inevitably fuels the fire and makes it worse.”
What could happen when you engage in sexting?
- “You get a reputation-because that “private” sext somehow escaped the phone it was sent to.”
- “You get rejected – because the girl/guy you really want to go out with thinks you send naked pictures of yourself to everyone, since everyone’s seen them, and s/he’s not psyched.”
In addition to providing all of this information, MTV provides teens with several different solutions to help aid them in protecting themselves online, reporting and dealing with abuse, or dealing with suicidal thoughts.
Teens can also access a database full of videos that show other teens sharing their stories of abuse, sexting, and more importantly, cyberbullying.
One of the most impressive parts of the whole campaign is the interactive visualization tool that 24-year-old Michael Bastianelli designed called, Draw Your Line. This tool lets teens from around the country use Twitter, Facebook, and their smartphones to share advice, facts, and show what they’re doing to help combat all forms of digital abuse. The interactive map shows which states have the highest activity—which essentially translates to which states have the most participants in Draw Your Line campaign.
But the “interactiveness” of this tool goes beyond just collaborating. For instance, by zooming in on a particular state, you can see how many people are “taking action” in their own communities or schools—it even tells you the names of the schools where the most “actions” are being taken. If a teen needs to find resources like a suicide prevention hotline, a health center, or an anti-bullying workshop, all they have to do is select the state they want from the map and a list of all of these places pops up.
Parents, let your teens know about this site, and encourage them to share it with their friends. It’s important that they know that this is out there, as a resource and a tool. It’s still fairly new, but it’s impressive to see our teens fighting for such a noteworthy cause. Through this site, teens from all over the country have created their own anti-bullying/anti-digital-abuse social network, and I think it’s a fantastic idea. That said, we need to spread the word and encourage all young people to join in. Action needs to be taken, and who better to lead the way than the digital generation?