After a string of bullying-related suicides in 2010, the media began to put pressure on parents to talk to their children about bullying, and encouraged school officials to implement anti-bullying lessons into the curriculum. As bullying continues to be a major problem, and a leading cause of teen suicide, technology companies have taken it upon themselves to make it easier for students to report bully behavior. Today, there are several ways this kind of behavior can be reported to the proper authorities via smartphone and web applications. Many schools even implement bully-reporting technology into their own official mobile applications.
1. Bully Button
Bully Button is an anti-bullying application developed for iOS that allows students to record audio of the bullying situation and send the file to the appropriate person. The app allows students to program contact information for parents, friends, and school officials, who will be notified when the bullying report is sent. When you start the app, you simply tap the big “Record and Send” button. After 30 seconds to 2 minutes, depending on the settings you chose when you set up the app, a message can be sent to the pre-programmed contacts. Users have direct access to the Suicide Hotline directly from the app’s homepage. Bully Button is available in the iTunes app store for $.99.
2. Stop Bullies
Stop Bullies is similar to the Bully Button, as it allows students to immediately record and report a bullying situation from their iOS devices. Students can choose to record video, take photos of the situation, or simply type a message. To use the app, school administrators must sign up for the service at the company’s website. Students can download Stop Bullies for from the iTunes app store, and select their school from the settings menu. School administrators can then choose where bullying reports are sent. Each report comes with the attached photo or video file, message, and GPS location of the incident.
Block’em is a free application available for Android and Blackberry devices that attempts to combat digital bullying. Users can program the application to block any hateful or bullying messages or phone calls being received on that phone. While students cannot use this application to report bullying, it can give them some peace of mind, as they can simply block anyone who is harassing them on their mobile devices.
4. Bully Block
Bully Block allows Android users to capture audio of a bullying incident that can be immediately reported to the proper authorities, including corporate HR departments, school officials, and parents. The app also features the ability to block hateful phone calls and text messages. When a bully calls that phone, he or she hears a pre-recorded message or a busy signal. Any communication from a bully is put into the “bully file,” which stores messages without the user being forced to read them. Bully Block can be purchased from Google’s Play Android Market for $.99.
Some schools are creating internal bully reporting systems that can be accessed from any smartphone via its web browser. The Metropolitan Business Academy, a magnet high school in New Haven, Connecticut, created a web app called “Back Off Bully,” or B.O.B. The webpage is simple, displaying only three buttons: a report button, and links to help students understand what bullying is and how they can find help. When students press the Report button, they can fill out a detailed form that is anonymously sent to school administrators. The administrators can then investigate the situation.
Many schools are also developing their own iOS and Android applications that allow students to access their school email accounts, check grades, communicate with teachers, and more. Many of these apps also include a bully reporting section similar to the B.O.B. web application.
While bully applications are beginning to become more prominent, they face an uphill battle. In some cases, school systems must sign up for the service before the application can even be useful. More importantly, however, students have to take it upon themselves to down the applications. Many students simply won’t do it. Further, all of these options require smartphones, so if a student does not have one, he or she is out of luck. Finally, most school policies state that students are not allowed to have cell phones on their persons during the school day. So if a bullying incident occurs, chances are slim a student will actually have access to the reporting applications.
While the appearance of these anti-bullying applications is a step in the right direction, more work needs to be done so that all students have the same access to bullying reporting technologies. School policies need to shift to allow students access to their cell phones in emergency situations, and more web apps should be developed so even those without powerful smartphones can access them.