AT&T Announces New Initiative to Combat Cyberbullying and Unveils AT&T-produced Film, ‘There’s A Soul Behind That Screen’
Effort Kicks Off in Coordination with New York City Administration, the Tyler Clementi Foundation and Common Sense Media
Events Planned Across New York City to Shine Light on Issues Affecting our Youth
AT&T1 is launching a new education effort to help students, parents and educators tackle the cyberbullying crisis. The effort shares valuable tools and resources and encourages parents to stay involved in their children’s online lives.
The initiative debuts in New York City and will feature a groundbreaking AT&T-produced film, “There’s a Soul Behind That Screen.” After the screenings, a panel including NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, AT&T SVP for the East Region Marissa Shorenstein, Common Sense's Senior Parenting Editor Caroline Knorr, and founder and board member of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, Jane Clementi, will discuss the cyberbullying crisis, digging into social media technology, the warning signs for parents and how to best support a child who has experienced cyberbullying. A parent guide for understanding the film and safeguarding children against cyberbullying, produced by Common Sense Media for this campaign, will also be distributed at each event.
Last year, AT&T and the Tyler Clementi Foundation conducted a first-of-its-kind poll of New York City teens and parents on cyberbullying. Findings showed parents are largely unaware of what’s happening under their own roof. While nearly 50% of New York City-area teens have experienced cyberbullying, only half of those told their parents.
“The impact of cyberbullying on our youth has become pervasive and alarming. We simply can't allow this crisis to destroy more lives and families. AT&T is hoping to give parents, educators and students the tools to combat this epidemic,” said Marissa Shorenstein, SVP, AT&T-East Region. “We’re working first with the New York City Department of Education, the New York City Council, and the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment to start a dialogue that will support parents, their children and educators to lead positive change in our communities.”
The film compiles award-winning short films made by high school students who participated in the 2016 All American High School Film Festival Cyberbullying Invitational based on their own cyberbullying experiences. Common Sense Media and the Tyler Clementi Foundation worked with AT&T to provide parents and educators with the tools necessary to address this issue.
“The Cyberbullying Invitational last year was inspiring. Through filmmaking, students could send a powerful message on the dangers of cyberbullying. We’re bringing these poignant stories back – to even more students across New York State,” said Jane Clementi, founder and board member of the Tyler Clementi Foundation. “Each unique voice and perspective in the film can inform and help stop this epidemic.”
"Every parent wants desperately to protect their child from being bullied. Unfortunately, our 24/7 digitally connected world is making it easier for young people to bully each other, making it more critical than ever before that we address it," said Common Sense President and Chief Operating Officer Amy Guggenheim Shenkan. "Here at Common Sense, we are dedicated to empowering families with the tools they need to both prevent and tackle cyberbullying. Our childhood development expertise and groundbreaking research informs this work and we are thrilled to partner with AT&T on such an important initiative."
AT&T and the Tyler Clementi Foundation have aligned with the New York City Council, the New York City Department of Education, the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment and Common Sense Media to screen “There’s a Soul Behind That Screen” for parents in all five NYC boroughs.
“In the era of the Internet, bullies everywhere have taken their efforts to the digital level, causing undue depression, anxiety, and psychological stress for thousands of victims across the country. Cyberbullying has spiraled into an epidemic – and it must be stopped,” said New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “As I announced earlier this year during my State of the City address, we must work to tackle cyberbullying at its roots. The Council is proud to partner with the Mayor’s Office, The Tyler Clementi Foundation, Common Sense Media, and AT&T to combat cyberbullying through this joint initiative. Here in New York City, we want to make it clear that bullying of any kind is unacceptable.”
“Thank you to Speaker Mark-Viverito and the City Council for their continued partnership in addressing cyberbullying -- an issue we are all working diligently to address,” said NYC Schools Deputy Chancellor Elizabeth Rose. “We commend the work of AT&T and Common Sense Media in using student voices to make change and empower students in creating positive school climates.”
“Cyberbullying is taking a terrible toll on our children and is one of the most pressing issues of our time,” said Media and Entertainment Commissioner Julie Menin. “We need to listen to our kids and learn to recognize the warning signs. This compilation of films by high school students is a genuine step towards understanding and stemming this terrible epidemic.”
The Siena College Research Institute is joining the effort by launching the AT&T/Siena Upstander Program. The program is a statewide series of events in which Siena College students will inform high school students, teachers and school administrators of the dangers of cyberbullying and empower the high school students to become Upstander ambassadors. Siena students will facilitate workshops for students in high schools across the state that will provide them with the tools and resources they need to combat this issue in their communities. The program will feature "There's a Soul Behind that Screen" and conclude with school-wide assemblies to build awareness, share best practices and promote the Upstander culture.
"We are thrilled to work alongside AT&T and the Tyler Clementi Foundation to empower high school students to share their stories, connect with Siena students on a peer to peer level, and become leaders of the Upstander movement in their schools and communities," said Don Levy, Director, Siena College Research Institute. "This program is at the heart of Siena’s mission as a Franciscan college and we are committed to assisting high school students, their parents, and schools to move from being victims and bystanders of cyberbullying to being Upstanders and ambassadors in combating this pervasive issue."
We’ll share more soon on upcoming fall events to be held in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, on Staten Island, on Long Island and across Upstate New York. The AT&T cyberbullying program, with screenings of “There’s a Soul Behind that Screen,” will also come to other states later this year. Until then, parents, educators, community leaders and students can download materials – including the film - at soulbehindthatscreen.org.
AT&T is also empowering teens to rise above online negativity and abuse through its social-first campaign, Later Haters. Influencers that teens love and trust will drive the movement on their social platforms – Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. AT&T hopes to encourage young people to use their mobile devices as a force for good.
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