Disney Channel stars speak out against cyberbullying

Thu Apr 5, 2012 12:30pm EDT
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Even some young Disney Channel stars, as popular as they seem to be, have suffered at the hands of bullies, and now dozens of them are urging kids to stand up against bullying - not by lashing out, but by speaking up.

In a campaign launching on Thursday on Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney.com, actors like Billy Unger, Bridgit Mendler and Bella Thorne are urging 6 to 14-year-olds to treat each other better, both in the playground and online.

The campaign also encourages parents to teach their children how to use cell phones, social networking sites and gaming websites responsibly, and gives advice on what to do when cyberbullies strike.

Unger, 16, who plays a bionic teen in the hit Disney XD series "Lab Rats", recalls in one public service announcement for the campaign how he was taunted with nicknames like "small fry" and "shortie" when he was in elementary school.

Unger told a teacher who met with his parents. But what also helped, he said, was a casting agent telling the budding young actor that being short was a good thing for a kid entering the entertainment industry.

"So from that point on, when people called me small fry or shortie I was like, 'yeah, you're right and I am proud of it,'" Unger says in his message.

China Anne McClain of "A.N.T. Farm", Zendaya of "Shake It Up" and Debby Ryan of "Jessie" are also taking part in the Disney campaign, run jointly with the non-profit group Common Sense Media.


Actor Billy Unger poses in this undated publicity photograph from the Disney Channel's "Lab Rats" television series. REUTERS/Craig Sjodin/Disney Channel/Handout