Adina’s Deck Gives Kids A Clue on Solving Cyberbullying Mysteries

adinas-deck.jpgIn the wake of yesterday’s federal grand jury cyberbullying indictment of a twisted MySpace hoax which resulted in a teen’s suicide, it seems a good time to revisit the cruelty of the schoolyard.

Except for one small thing…It didn’t happen in the schoolyard…

The perp was a MOM. (CBS video, and Larry Magid’s analysis/podcast here) Maybe if the fictitious Adina’s Deck teen detective crew were privy to the now infamous Megan Meier case, they may have been able to solve the mystery and spare a life before the cruel MySpace joke got out of hand…

What is Adina’s Deck you say? Adina’s Deck is a worthy, award-winning 30-minute must-see ‘mystery’ film aimed at educating 9-15 year olds about “cyberbullying(defined as using technology to harass, humiliate, stalk, or embarrass others via the internet, digital technology and mobile phones)

Grounded in sound theoretical framework, and created by Debbie Heimowitz and Jason Azicri as a masters thesis for the Learning, Design & Technology program at Stanford University, the film gives kids the tools to ‘connect the dots’ on relational aggression and emotional distress…which can sink techno-savvy teens into sullen self-esteem quicksand faster than you can say ‘IM.’

Here’s a video clip from KTVU’s Mornings on 2 from last fall, interviewing Debbie & Jason of Adina’s Deck…

Teens? See it. Screen it. Live it.

Engage with the material on as many levels as you can to get your coping skills up to snuff and your resources in place for how to handle peer to peer nastiness if it ever happens to you.

Educators? Buy it. Use it.

Learn what’s going on in kids’ digital lives to guide them through rough patches, counsel without preach-n-teach tactics, and enable media itself to enlighten, engage and inform.

adinas-deck-cast.jpgShaping Youth showed Adina’s Deck (cast at left) to our tween team last fall when it first came out, and ear-marked it as a worthy ‘partner project’ for us after being duly impressed with the film’s creators who I met and interviewed after the She’s Geeky conference, vowing to promote them fully once I figured out the best formula…

I was stymied for awhile trying to figure out best practices to get the word out locally to youth advocates and create ongoing buzz about these various kids’ issues using media as a conduit, and it’s evolved to be our new fall film circuit of youth/parent education screenings…

See, Debbie? I didn’t forget about ‘cha, we just needed to finish our prototype event this week with the Two Angry Moms film!)

Now we’re hoping to partner with Bay Area Parent magazine’s TEEN edition to screen Adina’s Deck en masse in time for their back to school issue later in the summer, and hope to tap sponsorship via Preteen Alliance and other hospitals, school and corporate settings with a vested interest in the emotional health of children. (ping me if you’d like to donate your venue to host a screening later in the fall?)

nea-logo.gifMeanwhile, you can preview the Adina’s Deck trailer, or debrief in full with this fresh new National Education Association article which links to a FREE download.

When I talked to Debbie & Jason awhile back about their goals for the film and the character development behind the storyline, they both reinforced the notion that most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling, so one of their goals was to embed cyberbully education with SOLUTIONS-based outcomes.

look.gifSince Shaping Youth uses these same persuasive tactics to lift, reveal, and magnify the facts to understand the inner motivations (whether it’s peer pressure, junk food, or body image cues!) this jazzed me completely knowing we’d found a perfect fit.

It’s not a simplistic victimization formula, nor a gloom and doom power whine, Adina’s Deck couched the characters in ‘whodunnit’ mode like a cinematic version of the boardgame Clue…

Getting kids to ‘see themselves’ on screen can help them understand their own internal landscape without feeling judged and shamed whether they’re on the giving or receiving end of cyberbullying. That really works for me…

In fact, one of our Shaping Youth teen advisors is a high school sophomore who has “been cyberbullied big time” and is willing to take the lead with us to promote Adina’s Deck and other ‘odd girl out’ style films, to share her painful peer to peer experiences firsthand.

mentoring-logo.jpgThis may sound bold, and it is, but it also fits well with the healing process to help kids open their eyes to the damage and suffering and put a face to the Q&A ‘up close and personal.’

This hands-on formula worked with Freedom Writers too, and we use it regularly with Shaping Youth’s ‘been there done that’ mentoring mode among peers.

Anyone that works with kids regularly knows this is a huge problem beyond the Pew Internet Cyberbullying Study facts and figures, when relational aggression comes out anonymously (and sideways) sometimes causing irreparable harm as in the case with Megan Meier.

adinas-deck-cast-2.jpgAdina’s Deck producers Debbie Heimowitz & Jason Azicri (at left with cast) certainly know this, and they set out to create the film series as an intervention-based curriculum that addresses both the bully and the victim, to make change on the spot by building awareness, understanding, and hope.

Here are a few clips from our meeting, with the full interview to come once I find out their “next steps” with phase 2 & 3 which is in casting stage right now.

Shaping Youth: If you could sum up what you want Adina’s Deck ‘to do’ how would you capture it? What should tweens and teens walk away with after seeing the film?

Debbie Heimowitz: “We’d like kids to begin to understand the consequences of their actions, what can happen to their victim, and the seriousness and prevalence out there.”

Shaping Youth: Any specifics on behavioral change?

Jason Azicri: “Well, for the bullies we’d like to raise awareness from “We were just kidding; nothing bad can happen” to knowing they could be responsible for someone’s suicide. And we’d like victims to go from “I can’t tell anyone, not even my mom” to knowing “there are so many options/solutions to help me, I’m not even sure which one to pick.”

Shaping Youth: Would you consider your film to be realistic, a dramatization, or a reality show type of series?

Jason Azicri: It’s not a documentary per se or even a ‘based on’ type of film, but it definitely includes the most common forms of cyberbullying that have been reported in the research.

Shaping Youth: Can you give me an example of what you did and why?

Debbie Heimowitz: We chose to cast adolescent girls, based on the significant peer group relations…And rather than vilify or turn it into a ‘mean girl’ stereotyped character, we tried to show the range of conflicting emotions that comes from both the one being bullied and the bully themselves.

Shaping Youth: For empathy and understanding?

Debbie Heimowitz: Yes, to see both sides…but also to show the very real feelings of some of these high drama moments in kids’ lives, when cliques and friendships and social power and identity all mush together, and sometimes come out sideways.

Shaping Youth: Did you test outcomes and track kids’ point of view? We’re going to do a feedback piece on the tween reactions from our Shaping Youth viewers but I’m curious about your own audiences and how that will shape future episodes…

Jason Azicri: Well, we found in our research and outcomes that kids went from ‘it’s no big deal’ to understanding even the most extreme outcomes, like suicide.

In fact, the numbers doubled in terms of students understanding that when someone gets bullied online or from text messages you never know what the outcome could be. As for future episodes, we’re definitely casting and always looking for funding…”

Yep. I sure know that one well…

A few other Shaping Youth Tips/Notes:

  • The short Ad Council PSAs about cyberbullying are fabulous, and really cut to the chase to spread the word at a grassroots global level. These are perfect for opening dialogue in an already established group where there’s a comfort zone. (leading a troop, teen camp, or ongoing afterschool program)
  • Next, don’t miss the Stop Cyberbullying site, created by Andy Carvin of pbs teachers which has the latest updates of recent articles on this topic automatically generated in RSS feed form. (join for free)
  • Also, on our Shaping Youth profile page there, I posted this poignant 3:30 YouTube video from ‘BlazingSky2006,’ a music montageof all of the needless ‘bullycides’ that have transpired…sad but breakthrough in its ability to capture ‘the big picture’ for kids, fast.

Anne Collier’s NetFamily News and the ConnectSafely.org forum will keep you abreast of social media fixes and factual studies that matter with insightful info minus the ‘fear-mongering.’

  • And finally, a word about A.D.’s run time: Shaping Youth teens found Adina’s Deck to be short enough to hold interest, but long enough to delve deeper and shift thinking in both the ‘victim and perpetrator’ sphere.
  • At 30 minutes, it’s the perfect length for me to be able to have a more robust dialogue with plenty of troubleshooting time for kids to convey their own personal experiences, and follow up with some of the social, psychological and even neurological causes and responses to bullying behavior.
  • Sidenote: Shaping Youth is interested in setting up some guest panels to address this on a larger scale, and working on creating a teen ‘Town Hall’ cable TV format at Media Center to air some of the youth outcomes of our fall educational film series, because we’ve found the youth feedback worthy of being captured on film itself!

We’ve toyed with offering this to the producers as a ‘special features’ element, or add a little YouTube group for each film to house the content and reactions after each screening?)

Your thoughts, readers?

Should we set up a ‘Ning’ group for Shaping Youth to network globally about each film? Or post the trailers on YouTube and start a discussion group to share best practices and outcomes instead? Or are you burned out with ‘tmi’ altogether?’

Eventually, Shaping Youth would like to see our film series beamed into kids’ virtual worlds to ‘pay it forward’ and reinforce media literacy by reaching kids online via ‘in-world’ screenings themselves.

Specific virtual world screening ideas?

habbowood.gifAdina’s Deck might be a fit for Habbo’s ‘Hollywood’ theme, where they have guest speakers come in and take Q&A from the avatars and renowned William Morris Agency has joined the ‘Habbowood’ film circuit…Just as Dizzywood productively planted the deforestation eco-message, and Zookazoo offered the results of their Earth Day green gaming challenge…

whyvillealonelogolg.jpgWhyville might be the perfect theme for Two Angry Moms’ since they have that ‘nutrition café’ in their virtual world where the avatars get curvy if they don’t eat right.

african-girl.JPGAnd Shaping Youth advisory board member Michealene Cristini Risley’s new film “Silent Bravery, the Women of Africa” for the Girl Child Network in Zimbabwe fits perfectly with the Teen Second Life/Global Kids Initiative to open up meaningful discussion and mobilize youth action…(much like they did with their machinima film, A Child’s War funded by the digital learning division of the MacArthur Foundation) So I can see lots of possibilities here for positive media partnering…

Ultimately, as many of you know, I’m interested in embedding Shaping Youth’s media literacy enrichment labs ‘in-world’ in various forms for positive, seamless ‘learning without feeling like you’re learning’ (we’re even talking to some other potential partners about creating NON-commercial, kid-created critters in a DIY child-designed world that sounds cool)…

But for now…it’s plenty ambitious to just support the work of other like-minded groups using the power of media for positive change, and build our partner org alliances to ‘be the change we wish to see in the world’ (as Gandhi would say).

adinas-deck-logo1.jpgAdina’s Deck will be wrapping up their auditions tomorrow for episodes two and three of their detective series, which will deal with “Online Relationships, Predators, Decision Making” & “Cheating/Plagiarism”

Meanwhile, don’t miss the original cyberbullying dvd of Adina’s Deck, (along with their blog, educators guide, and message board forum) as an affordable, effective resource for opening up these important conversations.

Cyberbullying is perhaps the single-most relevant example of ‘media’s impact on kids’ that warrants full attention…for prevention.

Related Posts On Shaping Youth

NetFamilyNews Posts Cyberbullying Statistics; ConnectSafely Forum Helpful

Harris Interactive Research: How Cyberbullying is Shaping Youth Savvy

Precedent Setting Cyberbullying Indictment for Missouri Mom

SXSW: Teen Docu-Drama & Digital Doings+New Cyberbullying Study


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