November 6, 2019

Raising awareness of teen cyberbullying

New Kaiser Permanente Southern California Educational Theatre production “Don’t Forget to Like” highlights the damaging effects of online bullying.

Following the performance, actor-educators are available to the students for one-on-one discussions.

With the advent of social media, the way we share information has transformed. In an instant, we can send photos, videos, and messages to anyone in our social circle or across the globe. It is because of this immediate information sharing that bullying has also taken a new form. In the past, a bully’s negative behavior typically was encountered in person. Now, a smartphone in the wrong hands can sometimes mean emotional trauma is only a click away.

More than 20% of students 12 to 18 years old report being bullied, and over 35% have been the victims of cyberbullying. “Don’t Forget to Like” is Kaiser Permanente Southern California Educational Theatre’s newest production, and works to spark a discussion between teachers, parents, and students about the consequences of cyberbullying.

The play is part of Kaiser Permanente’s adolescent bullying awareness program, and follows the story of 4 middle school students: Angel, Zoe, Kayla, and Carlos. When one student commits an impulsive act of cyberbullying, we see how it affects all of their lives, especially the student being made fun of. Touching on topics of mental and emotional health, “Don’t Forget to Like” relates to students by using real-life examples of how a single, distributed message on social media can be extremely damaging. In the play, the actor-educators use text messages and the social media apps that are popular among youth today, including Instagram and Snapchat.

“Young people get to see themselves and their peers in a live, theatrical setting. It makes them feel they are not alone, and their experiences are shared by others,” said Maximilian Mastrangelo, program supervisor and play director.

After the performance, the actor-educators make themselves available to the students for one-on-one discussions. “You would be surprised to see how many students have opened up to us about their struggles,” said Christine Buccelli, actor-educator.

Students who disclose abuse, bullying, feelings of depression, or the intent to cause harm to themselves or others are connected to the principal, counselor, or other school personnel for follow-up. The adolescent bullying awareness program serves approximately 60,000 students annually and to date has connected more than 1,000 at-risk youth to school personnel.

Students are also given a wallet card listing various resources including the 24 hour crisis hotline and the Teen Talk app.

“Don’t Forget to Like” highlights the need for limits on screen time and suggests strategies for using social media positively. The production also illustrates the value of boundaries and how they translate to self-care. Through the story depicted on stage, students are encouraged and empowered to be compassionate, and to speak up when something is wrong. “Don’t Forget to Like” demonstrates to students that they are not alone, and that help is always available.

Educational Theatre is a free Kaiser Permanente Community Health program that helps K-12 students and their families in at-risk communities develop healthy, lifelong habits. Since 1986, Educational Theatre has served over 7.3 million students and adults in Southern California.

Learn more about Kaiser Permanente’s work in the community.