The Reality of Cyber Bullying and what iCarly is and isn’t doing about it… Featuring:
Rebecca Black


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iCarly
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1) Rationale

Now that we have ventured into the 21st century we face many of the same issues our parents and elders faced growing up but we are facing them in new ways. Technology has allowed for amazing things to happen in the world, but with every ounce of good comes a little bit of bad as well. One major issue that has arose is that of cyber bullying. StopCyberBullying.com describes cyber bulling as when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones. For many kids the Internet and technology allows them to easily say things to others that they wouldn’t say directly to their faces. The screen in which they are using, be it a computer screen or mobile phone screen, is subconsciously viewed as a hidden force field that provides no accountability for what they say. This notion as we all know is false, and all words that are said, be it virtually or in person, have the same meaning behind them.

2) Research Questions

1) Is Cyber Bullying discussed within iCarly?
2) How is bullying as a whole portrayed in iCarly?
3) What is Nickelodeon doing to address Cyber Bullying?
4) How does Rebecca Black relate to iCarly and Cyber Bullying?

3) Approach and Findings

In order to appropriately answer the above questions the first thing I needed to do was sit down, watch and understand iCarly. Having little background knowledge of the show it was important to view many hours of the show before starting any research on it. After my initial viewing of 5 episodes I began looking for scenes that involved bully and more specifically cyber bullying. I figured with all of the technology being used in the show that online safety would be something commonly discussed within the show. I couldn’t have been more wrong on that thought as I found very little discussion of online safety and bullying and no mention of cyber bullying anywhere within the first two seasons of iCarly. This was my first red flag during my research. All of the technology being used within the show was easily used in a fun and laughing matter, much like everything else in the show. I was hard pressed to find any serious matters discussed within the episodes I viewed. After realizing there wasn’t going to be much found on the issue of cyber bullying I decided to widen my search to simply bullying. While this was limited I was turned on to a character named Gibby who was the focus of most of the bullying within the school. Gibby is a stereotyped character who is the constant brunt of jokes and pranks and is also more over weight than the rest of the cast. Every action against Gibby in a mean form is met with a laugh track in the background and jokes from the other characters. This is giving the audience a thought that bullying isn’t a real issue and it’s more of a joke for everyone involved, which is far from the case.

Finally Professor Hobbs introduced the class to Nickelodeon’s approach to address cyber bullying. Rather than addressing the issue in episode Nick decided to take an out of episode approach with a thirty second PSA campaign aimed as educating kids and teens on how to handle cyber bullying. One of the ad’s even featured the cast of iCarly explaining how to handle cyber bullies. The approach was well thought out from Nick’s standpoint but did it actually get the point across? I asked a group of ten students from the Jubilee School in West Philadelphia if they were familiar with what Cyber Bullying was. All of which nodded that they were aware of cyber bullying but when asked if they (all of which were frequent viewers of iCarly) had seen the PSA featuring them discussing cyber bullying all said no they had not seen it. This question was proposed to the kids on April 25th while the PSA’s began airing on April 1st.

Being a 24 year old college student I personally have never been the victim of cyber bullying but was very curious to see exactly how bad it was, in order to do so I needed to look no further than YouTube sensation Rebecca Black. Black became an overnight sensation on the Internet with her “hit” song “Friday”. I put the word hit in quotes because it was a hit not because people liked it so much but because people hated it so much. For a span of nearly two weeks social networking sites like twitter buzzed constantly with tweets about Black. Very little good was ever said however, some of the top tweets read:

1. Rebecca Black, we don't hate you because you're famous. You're famous because we hate you.

2. Roses are red, violets are blue, if Rebecca Black wins ANY awards, Kanye you know what to do...


And those are just the ones I can print.


One of the major factors I didn’t mention is that Rebecca Black is only thirteen years old and many of these tweets and comments abusing her left on her YouTube page are being left by not just teens but adults as well. Never would an adult walk up to a thirteen year old girl on the streets and say some of the things they say in response to her video, but because it is behind the safety of a computer screen suddenly it becomes ok. In a Good Morning America interview Black was asked how she felt about the comments and she didn’t seem to mind at all she was just happy to have the fame and used the sense of any attention is good attention but her mother gave a much different view saying “In all honesty…I probably could have killed a few people”. Black is a first hand case of cyber bullying where not only fellow teens but adults as well hide behind a computer screen and use hateful words towards others. Black should be exhibit A why cyber bullying is a real issue in today’s world.



4) Conclusion and Thoughts


Between my research on iCarly and also on Rebecca Black I noticed that cyber bullying is a real issue that isn’t being handled properly. Nickelodeon shys away from the real issues far to often and feels as though a thirty second PSA will make an impact on kids but that simply isn’t the case. With technology such as DVR’s and DVD’s of shows kids can easily escape commercials and completely miss these PSA’s. If Nickelodeon wants to take a real stance they need to find a way to incorporate it into it’s show as a serious issue. The 21st century has brought on a lot more worries for parents with technology advancements and while so much good has been brought out we need to address directly not indirectly. A thirteen year old girl with a dream to be a pop singer shouldn’t be subject to hate words and death threats from fellow teens and other adults simply because her video went viral. While Rebecca Black’s story of fame is out of the ordinary the scrutiny she faced for being different and singing different is no different then what kids of different races and ethnicities face on daily basis out in the world. Nick has the opportunity to really reach kids and portraying bullying with a laugh track and as a non-issue isn’t reality. Cyber Bullying is a real issue that needs to be addressed with our youth before it gets any worse than it is now.



Sources:

Black, Rebecca (Performer). (2011). Friday [Recorded by Rebecca Black]. [Medium of recording: Record] (2011)

Good morning america: worst song ever? rebecca black responds. (2011). [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AjFIzWjT5I4

What is cyber bullying exactly?. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.stopcyberbullying.org/what_is_cyberbullying_exactly.html

iCarly, . (Artist). (2011). Cyber bullying. [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.nick.com/videos/clip/oth_icarly_PSA2.html

Nick to air cyber bullying ads. (2011). Washington Post, Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/nick-to-air-cyberbullying-ads/2011/03/28/AFMsR6tB_story.html