If you’ve been browsing the internet today you may have noticed a colourful procession of anti-bullying protesters winding its way across the bottom of the screen on several websites.
Today is Beatbullying’s Big March, a virtual campaign which promises to make ‘digital campaigning history’. The last few weeks have seen 834,000 people creating online representations of themselves on Beatbullying’s site, and today they’re passing through a diverse range of websites including Mumsnet, Demos, the UK Youth Parliament and The Sun, ending up on the charity’s CyberMentors site.
The march, led by a virtual Archbishop Desmond Tutu, marks the launch of Anti-Bullying week, and will culminate in the avatars handing over an online petition to David Cameron, calling for the government to set up a commission to look at ways to tackle bullying.
As well as demonstrating the level of support that exists for government action on bullying, the march raises awareness of Beatbullying’s work and the problem of bullying more widely. It’s also a chance for the charity to draw attention to some important statistics: for instance, 80% of children think bullying should be a crime, and 17% would consider carrying a weapon to protect themselves.
The real beauty of the campaign is that it links perfectly with Beatbullying’s flagship project, CyberMentors, where young people experiencing bullying can chat online with other young people trained to listen, through the medium of avatars like those in today’s march. For a charity that uses the internet as a platform for major aspects of its work, a virtual march seems fitting. It will be interesting to see whether such protests become a regular occurrence, and what other creative uses of the web we can look forward to.