“Much of the silly violence that I see committed by high school or gang members starts by online taunting,” Brooklyn DA EricGonzalez said. “There’s so much bullying and taunting that happens online that then plays itself out in violence on the street; like fist fights in the schoolyard.”
According to the NYC Department of Education, 81% of students in grades 6-12 who responded to the annual NYC School Survey in 2016, reported that students harass, bully and intimidate their peers – an increase from previous years, though also possibly a reflection of more awareness.
“I’m really excited about this,” Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez told BKLYNER. “It’s a different approach; having students tell their own stories about how bullying has impacted them. Get them empowered to tell their story and hopefully encourage others to understand the impact, especially other young people.”
DIYdoc allows youth to create two, two and a half minute films about their experiences.
“They’re being bullied by cyberspace or on cyberspace and now we’re using the same methods to really reach an audience AND talk anti-bullying messaging,” Gonzalez said. “I want to really reach to some of these students. I really want some of these students to hear the impact of their online messaging on their friends and colleagues. And for those who are being bullied, one of the things we will have is resources for parents to turn to.”
“We usually use social media to rant and vent rather than to tell a well thought out and compelling story with real persuasive power,” said Ed Greene, HITN’s Senior Director for Educational Outreach and Partnerships. “We believe that this is something that will work.”
Greene acknowledges the fact that there are plenty of initiatives aimed to combat bullying, but this initiative he believes is different.
“Often times there’s information that is put down to youth about what they should do and what they shouldn’t do,” Greene said. “And sometimes we don’t give them enough attention to what they’re experiencing. This is why we worked on this app.”
Gonzalez, himself a father of three young boys, encourages parents to be involved in what’s happening in their children’s lives.
“I think parents really think it starts in high school,” he said. “But so many young people have smartphones at ten and 11 years of age, it’s really much earlier.”
As the DA of Brooklyn, Gonzalez believes he has “an obligation to make sure people feel protected and that people feel free to continue to live their lives.” Because often bullying leads to depression and suicide, and many students are afraid to return to school after being bullied.
This initiative is the not the end-all of bullying initiatives. The DA hopes to have assistant DA’s and social workers go into classrooms and give presentations on the effects of bullying, how it can be prevented, and what steps children can take.
“I think the difference here is this messaging is from peer to peer,” Gonzalez said. “I think the students know how to talk to each other a lot better than we do as adults to them.”
The Brooklyn DA’s office has continually worked on different initiatives to combat bullying, such as the Anti-Bullying Partnership to Prevent Violence and Suicide.