Could an iPhone app help address teen bullying? Could a
website connect abused children to help? MTV and its A Thin Line campaign think so.
Among other things, the campaign asks youth to share
their experiences via the app or
on the site, and then other users vote as to whether anyone went "over the
line." The site also directs users to resources such as the National Teen
Dating Abuse Hotline or the police.
On the site, anonymous users share stories on a wide
variety of topics: a hijacked Facebook account used to send insulting messages,
a large cross posted on a Christian student's locker and labeled "Jesus Freak,"
prescription drug abuse, sexting.
Sometimes we type
things we would never say to someone's face. As a result, new issues like
forced sexting, textual harassment and cyberbullying have emerged, which now
affect a majority of young people in the U.S.
Recent news stories have underscored the
seriousness of these problems. But is an iPhone app going to rid your child's
school of bullying? No. And although in general I'm enthusiastic about social
media and crowdsourcing, the idea of hundreds of anonymous youth determining
the morality of something makes my inner John Calvin very nervous.
The A Thin Line
campaign could alert youth to a problem, give them an opportunity to share
something difficult to talk about, and function as a way for counselors to
begin a conversation. But ultimately our society needs to find our collective
voice and say clearly—in person as well as online—"that's just not ok."
Adam J. Copeland teaches faith and leadership at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. He has served as pastor of a Presbyterian church and as mission developer of a Lutheran ministry. He blogs at A Wee Blether, part of the CCblogs network.