MTV: An unlikely, but welcomed voice in the battle to protect youth online

Since it’s premier on the entertainment stage in 1981, MTV has become one of the most recognized networks by young adults in America. Unfortunately, today MTV is no longer known for Music Television, but rather as a home to reality shows geared towards teenagers and young adults. Shows including Jersey Shore, Teen Mom, Skins, The Hills, Parental Control, and numerous others grab the attention of millions of teens and pre-teens each and every day, in many ways promoting underage drinking, teen pregnancy, drug use, and other youth risky behaviors.

MTV’s most recent attention grabber has been the drama Skins. The Parent’s Television Council (PTC) calls Skins “the most dangerous program that has ever been foisted onto our children.”  The show’s portrayal of foul language, illegal drug use, and thoroughly inappropriate sexual content has caused many sponsors and advertisers to back out. Fox News reports that the show could lose MTV up to $2 million per episode. The PTC has been fighting on the front lines in the attack on the MTV drama pointing out that the show’s actors are under the age of 18 and are being filmed in situations that are comparable to child pornography. In response to pressure for a federal investigation on the program MTV Spokeswoman Jeannie Kedas says, “Skins is a show that addresses real-world issues confronting teens in a frank way. We review all of our shows and work with all of our producers on an ongoing basis to ensure our shows comply with laws and community standards. We are confident that the episodes of Skins will not only comply with all applicable legal requirements, but also with our responsibilities to our viewers.” MTV plans to air the remaining episodes of Skins this season.

Despite all this deleterious content, MTV is actually getting a few things right. Not just right…really right. Between their A THIN LINE campaign, and the announcement of their original movie based on the tragic story of Abraham Biggs and his struggles with cyberbullying, MTV is doing their part to take a stand and empower teens to stand strong in the fight for Internet safety.

MTV’s A THIN LINE campaign is designed to empower teenagers to draw a line between digital use and digital abuse, understanding “that there’s a ‘thin line’ between what may begin as a harmless joke and something that could end up having a serious impact on you or someone else.” Their mission addresses several pertinent issues plaguing youth today including sexting, textual harassment, and cyberbullying, helping to empower kids to “identify, respond to, and stop the spread of digital abuse in your life and amongst your peers.”

The campaign’s website is an interactive sight geared towards teens, which includes: a quiz asking questions about real life situations on topics ranging from sexting, to cyberbullying, digital disrespect, and online cruelty; a Get The Facts sections which touches on sexting, constant messaging, spying, digital disrespect, and cruelty and focuses on what could happen and where to draw the line in each situation; a Take Control section where teens are empowered to take a stand by supporting friends, calling out for help, and/or sharing their stories; and a Your Stories section where real stories are posted and a Q&A section is featured. Finally, the most important part of the A THIN LINE campaign is the Draw Your Line section of the site where MTV spotlights actions taken by teens and their friends to stop digital abuse.

A THIN LINE has been using PSAs and A-List celebrities like teen sensation Justin Bieber to draw teens far and wide to the campaign.

MTV’s other Internet Safety initiative (also a part of the A THIN LINE campaign) is their upcoming original movie based on the tragic, true-life story of Andrew Biggs and his struggles with cyberbullying. MTV announced the upcoming film at the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention this past week.

Abraham’s mother, Doreen Biggs said, “We’re happy MTV is sharing Abraham’s story with the world. We hope that young people realize just how powerful the internet can be, and that this film drives them to take action to put an end to cyberbullying so no family ever has to go through something like this again.”

The A THIN LINE campaign and the upcoming Andrew Biggs movie serve as important resources for youth struggling in a digital world where cyberbullying and digital abuse are far too pervasive. At Enough Is Enough, we believe that parents are the first line of defense. As a parent or other caring adult, it is critical to engage your children about cyberbullying. Visit the A THIN LINE campaign website and develop an action plan together regarding what your child should do if they encounter online abuse.

For more information on cyberbullying, visit our site (www.internetsafety101.org). We also hope you will make use of the following resources to ensure a safe online environment for our kids:

In addition to MTV’s resources, we developed a cyberbullying Video Vignette as part of our multi-media Internet Safety 101 program that can be used as a great discussion starter for your families, which you can watch here.

Sources:

http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2011/02/21/skins-continues-ratings-decline-went-wriong-heavily-hyped/

http://www.athinline.org/

http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1659632/president-obama-abraham-biggs.jhtml

www.internetsafety101.org

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/20/business/media/20mtv.html

http://www.parentstv.org/

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4 Comments

  1. Lauren, I’m so glad you ‘gave credit where credit is due’ here and called attention to AThinLine.org and the MTV prosocial work. (they have a new division http://act.mtv.com/ spinning off the MTV Think (now MTVAct) so I plan on doing a series on digital citizenship soon including ATL since it all spins off the recent nat’l bullying summit and is nicely SOLUTIONS-based and peer driven.

    As far as other bullying interventions and ‘doing it right’ I also like the youth work at Bom411.com (‘boss of me’) to preclude relationship drama escalating to teen dating violence and the new entity ReachOut.com (for tough/troubled times/even suicide prevention) along with TrevorProject.org etc…

    Here’s part3 of a series I wrote on Shaping Youth about internet safety/e-moderation and bullying intervention…really love ConnectSafely.org’s balanced reporting and youth forum on the social network side of this too: http://www.shapingyouth.org/?p=9304

    Great to ‘tweet’ you…(extends virtual handshake) 😉

  2. It is great to see MTV airing something positive on the topic of Internet safety. I had no idea about this, and am happy that I read it. Thank you for this information.

Trackbacks

  1. Shaping Youth » Recap of White House Conf on Bullying Prevention, Pt.1
  2. Shaping Youth » Rachel Simmons Chats About Mythbusting “Mean Girl” Media

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