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Bullying is a childhood and adolescent problem that goes back as far as anyone can recall, and can have some truly damaging effects. With the rise of the Internet and smartphones in the 21st Century, bullying has graduated from a playground activity into a more nefarious creature that can impact all ages. Cyberbullying is no joking matter, and a new campaign is looking to take the devices that facilitate it and turn them into weapons for positivity.

UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, recently launched an ad campaign in Chile that speaks out against cyberabullying with smartphone photos. The campaign is titled “One Shot,” and consists of three ads that feature images that show a group of teenage students pointing their mobile cameras at one of their peers, in a kind of firing squad-style.

 These three “execution scenes” are titled “Fatty,” “Nerd,” and “Weak.”

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The ads starkly read “One shot is enough. Cyberbullying represents one of the main causes of depression and suicide among kids at school. If you have a smartphone, use it wisely. Don’t kill anyone’s self-esteem.”

While cyberbullying has been a thing for years before smartphones arrived on the scene, the increasing prevalence of these mobile devices created a powerful new venue for cyberbullying to take place, available at pretty much anyone’s fingertips. The fact that kids can capture stills and videos of these bullying moments and post them to social media adds a whole new layer to the humiliation victims of bullying experience.

“Here was this incredible imaging device that initially opened up photography to a new generation of young shooters,” began Oren Firth, a child psychologist in New York. “And so many of the videos and images we were being treated to early on that were being uploaded to Flickr, Facebook and YouTube were magnificent. Then, somehow, we lost that and this new, disturbing trend began taking hold.”

Firth added that the bullying imagery being posted today essentially has the effect of forcing the victim to relive the attack again and again, deepening the depression and psychological scars. Suffice it to say, it was clearly time for something to be done, and how fitting to use the device that was escalating the problem to help combat it.

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UNICEF’s “One Shot” campaign brilliantly takes a trip into the complexities of technology and social media to shine light on the very serious issue of bullying. Through the images in the ads, UNICEF mobilizes and forces us to redefine our views on the subject. Cyberbullying is a horrifically ugly topic, and the imaging tech in smartphones has made it even uglier. The campaign succeeds in warping these disturbing images to expertly portrays the victimization and harm they can cause.

Highlight the power of photography, UNICEF spotlights and vilifies the role smartphones play in bullying today, raising awareness of an issue that far too many parents are either unaware of, or worse, simply ignore. Not surprisingly, the “One Shot” campaign recently won a set of gold Press and Outdoor Lions at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2015.

I don’ know of too many ad campaigns that are accomplishing all that UNICEF’s “One Shot” campaign is. Hopefully, this important message goes viral and has a more global impact outside of South America. It’s time to get back to capturing and posting life’s more spontaneous and special moments with the wonders of technology, rather than using it to perpetrate ugliness and hate.

— Images in ads by Prolam Young & Rubicam/UNICEF Chile

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