Anderson Cooper on 'The Bully Effect'
02:28 - Source: CNN

Watch a special edition of AC360° “The Bully Effect” tonight on CNN at 8 p.m. ET

Story highlights

Anderson Cooper: Bullying today seems worse than in previous generations

Cooper: When bullied children commit suicide, it's not just tragic, it's unacceptable

Through reporting we can increase empathy and help reduce bullying, he says

Cooper: Learn more from "The Bully Effect," which will air on CNN tonight at 8 p.m. ET

In the last few years, awareness about bullying has increased dramatically. Some adults may still think bullying is just a youthful rite of passage, but it seems worse than in previous generations for many parents, educators and kids.

It doesn’t stop at the schoolyard or even a child’s front door. Access to the Internet and social media websites mean kids can be bullied and tormented around the clock, even in the supposed safety of their own homes. The cruelty that can come with the strike of a button on a keyboard can hurt just as much as any punch or push in a playground.

We’ve produced a documentary called “The Bully Effect” which follows the stories of a number of people filmmaker Lee Hirsch introduced audiences to in his remarkable 2012 film “Bully.” These are kids and parents who have taken their pain, their suffering, their grief and turned it into action. They are truly inspiring.

Our unhealthy love of reality TV bullying

Anderson Cooper

I first started reporting on the problem of bullying a few years ago when a rash of suicides of children propelled the issue into the national spotlight. Since then, I’ve interviewed far too many parents whose children took their own lives because they felt like it was the only way out of the pain. It’s not just tragic, it’s unacceptable.

Through our reporting, we’ve repeatedly tried to understand the complex issues surrounding bullying. There are not just bullies and victims. Sometimes a child who is bullied may bully someone else. We’ve tried to understand how bullying can be a form of what researchers call “social combat,” and we’ve looked at what programs work to prevent it, and why some schools fail to adequately address the problem.

Most bullying incidents are witnessed by bystanders: other students, teachers, and adults. All too often those bystanders fail to intervene, fail to stand up and say “enough is enough.” As a teenager I saw other kids being bullied. Sometimes I tried to stop it, often times, I remained silent. It still pains me to this day.

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Increasing empathy and understanding is one of the greatest weapons we have to reduce bullying. That’s why I believe in the power of reporting. And why I hope you will watch “The Bully Effect” on CNN tonight at 8 p.m. ET. Change is happening, and you can be part of it.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Anderson Cooper.