A group of Harlem teenagers are using straight language and their own music videos to combat cyber bullying, trying to get teens to stop and pause before hitting the send button.
Teen-Pact students at the nonprofit Community Healthcare Network are producing public service video announcements that are being used at schools across the nation and in a text message campaign that teenagers receive on their cellphones.
A typical text message scenario depicted in one of the PSAs involves a teenage boy who finds himself ridiculed when his love text to a classmate goes viral.
"It's the funniest thing I ever seen," types the girl after she receives the heartfelt message. She forwards it to her friends, whose friends forward it to their friends until everyone at the school is privy to the boy's most intimate feelings.
The boy is humiliated and subjected to teasing and verbal attacks. "It was just a joke," the girl says when she learns the tormented boy had no choice but to transfer to another school.
The PSA message: "It's not funny anymore. Don't be an accidental bully."
Michele Perlman, director of Community Healthcare Network, which produced the campaign, said "It's not the silver bullet" that'll end bullying. "It's not going to reach everyone, but the PSAs offer a solution that has teenagers speaking to teenagers in their own words."
Anti-bullying producer Desiree Orellana, 16, of Central Park East High School in Manhattan, said the mission is to make teenagers aware that "you are hurting other people's feelings, and that not everything is a joke or for laughing out loud."
Orellana, an 11th-grader there, said producing the PSAs made her more sensitive to the fallout of bullying. "This definitely took me out of my comfort zone. I had to learn to be the bigger person and to pass on the rude attitude," she said.
The July issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health reports between 20 and 56 percent of young people are involved in bullying annually, either as a victim or perpetrator or both.
It covers eight studies that show bullying has a direct link to suicide, depression, fighting, carrying weapons and self-harm behavior such as cutting.
One survey said middle school-aged children were more likely to be involved in bullying, and that lesbian and gay teenagers were more likely to be victimized than heterosexuals.