Appealing to the tech-savvy young generation, an upcoming ABC Family movie called Cyberbully explores the growing problem of online bullying by teens. It stars Emily Osment (Hannah Montana), Kay Panabaker (No Ordinary Family) and Kelly Rowan (The OC), and they are all proud that the movie is part of the “Delete Digital Drama” movement set up by ABC Family and Seventeen Magazine, working to bring awareness to the issue of digital abuse and bullying.
I chatted with Emily and Kay recently when they attended the Disney-ABC Studios press day in Burbank. They were happy to be there to promote the production that follows Taylor (Osment), who falls victim to online bullying. The effect that a social website has on her and her family is devastating. Taylor becomes afraid to face her peers at school, including her best friend (Panabaker), and she is pushed to a breaking point.
Both actresses had a lot to say about the strong message they hope to convey to viewers who tune in for the July 17 premiere of Cyberbully.
Emily noted that the research she did on the subject of cyber bullying involved her mother. “My mom’s a teacher, and she hears all kinds of stuff about bullying, and she sees kids go through it. Just the other day, she had this mom come in because her child was dealing with some extreme bullying situation. My mom knows how to deal with these situations. So I talked to her many hours, about what she sees, and how kids go through it,” Osment explained.
Osment takes a journey in the film, and shows growth in the mindset of the character from where she starts and where she finishes. On top of that, Emily hopes the campaign that’s happening around the project helps kids learn how to deal with the problem. “We’re making this such a big deal, and we really need to if we want things to get better,” she said.
Playing the victim’s best friend Samantha, Kay Panabaker gives her point of view of how a cyberbully affects someone. “Taylor becomes more introverted, and as she feels alienated, I feel hurt by her unresponsiveness. So what’s nice about this film is that it focuses on Taylor’s journey, but you see the journey of the bully, and her friends and her family, and how it affects everyone.”
Emily said she was never affected by cyber bullying when she was in high school “because we didn’t have that kind of pressure. If you were a bully, you had the courage to do it in person. And now it can be so easily anonymous. That’s what this movie focuses on, the anonymous bullying. How easy it is just to be mean. Bullying is just being mean to another person. But now when we put ourselves out there on Twitter, Facebook, and all that stuff, it’s easy to see how it happens. For me, I think one way to deal with it is to just take yourself off Facebook, and try to avoid it.”
Kay also had advice for teens regarding cyber bullying. “If it’s easier for you to ignore it, try it that way. Try confronting the bully, not aggressively, but say ‘hey, this sucks, could you at least not target me?’ Or sometimes you can try to make friends with your bullies. And if you’re really struggling, go online — they have ‘stompoutbullying.org’ and ‘delete digital drama.’ There are different avenues you can go to anonymously to figure out the right path for you.”