Anti-bullying effort aims at rallying bystanders

There’s a new pledge effort drive looking for recruits, and this one won’t lower your taxes or require you to remain a virgin until marriage. This pledge is aimed at getting the many who witness bullying behavior against the few to stop it by speaking up.

The “Stop Bullying: Speak Up” campaign was launched this week by Facebook and Time Warner, whose subsidiary Cartoon Network is pushing it hard with one of its prime target audiences, schoolkids.The new campaign invites kids, their parents and teachers to log on to Facebook and sign an interactive pledge that they will not stand by and witness bullying but will speak up when they see or hear it.

As of Tuesday night, just short of 9,000 had taken the pledge, which has prompted a small outpouring of chatter (not all of it intelligible) posted to Facebook’s site.

Not incidentally, Facebook has used the opportunity to educate its users about what to do if they see harassment on the social media site: Use the Reporting buttons, and if you’re in some doubt about whether the harassment should be reported, use Facebook’s social reporting tool to “bring others into the conversation.”

The new campaign comes less than a week after the publishing arm of the American Psychiatric Assn. released a book that offers an exhaustive review of what works and what doesn’t, and a toolkit that communities can use to shape local campaigns. Among its principal findings: Empowering bystanders to come to a victim’s aid, to challenge a bully or to report the behavior is a powerful way to change the environment in which bullying flourishes.

Stuart Snyder, president and chief operating officer of Cartoon Network, says the network began its campaign because bullying is one of those issues on kids’ minds “that they can do something about.” The network’s efforts to get kids talking about their role in stopping bullies will rise “to a whole ‘nother level” with the partnership of Facebook, Snyder said in an interview.

BTW, Anderson Cooper will be hosting a televised town hall meeting on the subject of bullying Oct. 9 at 8 p.m.