Disney Channel Spotlights Internet Safety in 'Dog With a Blog' Episode (Exclusive Video)
The potential dangers of social media is the subject of the Aug. 11 episode, which executive vp original programming Adam Bonnett says was an idea that came straight from the writers.
Disney Channel is putting the spotlight on an issue that weighs heavily on parents with teens: the dangers of social networking.
The kids cable network is teaming up with Common Sense Media for an episode of live-action comedy Dog With a Blog that documents the pitfalls of utilizing social media and putting information on the Internet without thinking.
In the episode titled "My Parents Posted What?!" that airs Aug. 11 at 8 p.m., Avery's parents (Beth Littleford and Regan Burns) discover that the 14-year-old (G. Hannelius) has secretly created a Buddy Bop account after they have forbidden her from joining the popular social media site. To teach her a lesson, they post silly photos of themselves on her page but soon realize the error of their ways when they accidentally add videos that are widely seen at Avery's school. The Hollywood Reporter exclusively debuts the scene depicting the humiliation that Avery feels after discovering her parents' videos.
The idea for the episode came straight from the writers and producers of Dog With a Blog, a series that centers on a family whose dog can talk. They "wanted to tell a story that, honestly, has never been told on Disney Channel before, which is ironic because the topic is so relevant to kids and parents," Adam Bonnett, executive vp original programming at Disney Channel, tells THR. The next step was to reach out to Common Sense Media, an advocacy group that focuses on child and family issues as well as the effect media and technology have on young users.
From Disney Channel's perspective, the episode is "ultimately about parenting," Bonnett says, "and an unconventional way of parenting. Putting the social media storyline aside, the parents make the choice to teach their daughter a lesson by doing an unconventional thing: embarrassing her."
Following the broadcast, a PSA with the Dog With a Blog cast will feature Common Sense Media's "5 Tips for Teens" and "10 Tips for Parents" for the best ways to safely navigate the online world. Some of the tips include thinking before texting or posting information online and guarding someone's privacy.
"Sometimes when you're on a social network it can feel very intimate and almost very private, because it's you in a room with a computer. The nature of social network is very public. This episode demonstrated that," Sierra Filucci, senior editor at Common Sense Media tells THR. "What we're trying to do is [have the kids] self-reflect before they reveal things about themselves."
Adds Bonnett: "The episode has some very clear messages … but it's not done in a didactic way. It's through story and character as opposed to giving our audience a list of guidelines."
The team behind Dog With a Blog consulted with Common Sense Media's parenting editor Caroline Knorr, who has "done a lot of work" on creating Internet safety tips for parents and kids. "She was able to review their script and make adjustments and suggestions on how to best present this idea," Filucci says.
The Dog With a Blog/Common Sense Media team-up is the latest in a long-standing relationship between the two parties. Disney Channel previously consulted with Common Sense Media on an anti-cyber bullying campaign in 2012 featuring network stars and a co-branded Phineas and Ferb PSA centered on Internet safety.
Filucci praised the series for showing the parents and kids discussing "what had happened" and "process their feelings" about the situation in the end. The episode "did a nice job teaching a touchy subject with humor," Filucci says.
Bonnett understands the importance of infusing lessons into the network's programming, as the bulk of its viewers are in transformative stages of their life. For example, an episode of A.N.T. Farm that aired last year had star China Anne McClain portraying iconic women like Ella Fitzgerald, Janet Jackson and Aretha Franklin for Black History Month.
"All of our series, in one way or another, are helping kids grow up and navigate life, whether it's dealing with a best friend or dealing with their first relationship or dealing with the digital space. We're proud of the fact that our shows help kids out," he says.
On a lighter note, while the main story of the upcoming Dog With a Blog episode is the prime focus for Disney Channel, the secondary arc adds more levity to the half-hour broadcast. Acrobatic dog troupe Olate Dogs, an America's Got Talent winner, makes an appearance.