bullying subject of Sesame Street

Elmo, Big Bird and friends are set to tackle the subject of bullying in new episodes to air next week. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images / October 19, 2010)

We all know that many bullies get their start in the sandbox, not the boardroom, and that their youngest victims can nurture the resulting hurt for a lifetime. No surprise, then, that next week, "Sesame Street's" Big Bird and Elmo--who despite their agelessness have been around a long time--will tackle the subject of bullying in its earliest phases.

Three new episodes devoted to bullying air Monday, Tuesday and Friday (Oct. 17, 18 and 21), kicking off a broad initiative that includes a Web page with advice and discussion for parents and activities for kids and a five-part video series that features psychologists, advocates and educators talking about bullying.

Among the preschooler dilemmas that "Sesame Street's" characters tackle early is the difference between reporting and tattling. Since even 3- and 4-year-olds know that nobody likes a tattletale, furry friends Elmo and Abby explain that when someone's being bullied and needs help, reporting the behavior to a trusted grown-up is good. When no one's been hurt and you're just trying to get someone in trouble, that's tattling, which is not good. 

Who knew Big Bird's little friends were so wise?

PBS is jumping into an all-out media blitz on the subject of bullying. Older kids are getting anti-bullying messages from Cartoon Network and Facebook. And for kids who fall somewhere between "Sesame Street" and Facebook, PBS Kids in early 2012 will premiere a one-hour movie called "WordGirl" in which major she-bully (who else?) Jane Lynch convinces WordGirl to take the low road to victory by using insults. WordGirl learns a powerful lesson about the power of words.