Kids can now be armed with one more strategy to stop bullying: their own cell phones. Currently about one in four students is bullied on a regular basis in school, so putting the power in their hands is more important than ever. In response to the growing bullying problem in schools, a number of companies have rolled out services that allow students to anonymously report bullying incidents to their school administrators and officials.
Blackboard, a leading company in educational technology and programs, is one of those companies who now has a service called TxtTip for reporting bullying behavior via cellphone. Other districts across the country are using Tip 411, a system originally for sending tips to police that can now send tips to school officials about bullying, abuse, depression, etc.
Why it works
Students, especially those middle school-aged, tend to communicate more comfortably through technology. They may be nervous to come forward face-to-face with a school administrator they barely know, but would be okay with sending a confidential, tip in a text. Both TxtTip and Tip 411 are completely anonymous, so students don’t have to worry about their name being associated with “tattling.” With this option, the fear of intimidation is eliminated.
Tip texting services are also effective because they are fast. Students can use their mobile devices, such as a Samsung Galaxy, to send information while it’s happening instead of waiting and sitting on the information. Not only can this help intervene in bullying that is occurring, but it can also prevent it from starting. If students are sending in texts as soon as they know about any plans of bullying, school officials can intervene and stop the problem before it escalates into a full blown incident.
According to recent studies, in 85 percent of school bullying incidents no intervention is taken place by school officials. This could all change with new bully policies in school districts and new technologies to report incidents and threats.
Tip 411 is an anonymous service and while in theory, the idea of anonymous tip texting is a good one because it protects the student from any retaliation, it can have some drawbacks as well.
For one, school officials and police officers don’t know who is sending the tips, so it’s hard to know without investigating every tip which are legit and which could a false alarm. It’s also possible that students could abuse the anonymity of the tip line to leave false information about students they don’t like.
Blackboard’s TipTxt, on the other hand, is confidential, but not totally anonymous. The service can track the phone number associated with each text.
The bottom line
Both Tip 411 and TipTxt are free (with only the cost of adding a tip line) for school districts to use and easy for students to operate. They are a quick and efficient way for students to take care of each other and make their schools a safer place to be.
From Gordon Ramsay on “Kitchen Nightmares” screaming at chefs and telling them how horrible their food is, to the animated Buford on Disney’s “Phineas and Ferb” stringing another character’s underpants up a flagpole, bullies are all over the networks.
Bullying on TV
A study, found in the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, reported on the levels of aggression portrayed in reality TV. The numbers show that “American Idol” depicts a whopping 57 acts of aggression during each hour-long program, and a British version of “The Apprentice” weighs in with a disturbing 85 acts of aggression during just one show.
Have a Conversation
In many of these programs, bullying is shown in an unrealistic light with intentions of humor and shock. In some cases, the bully and his or her behavior are accepted among the other cast members, and no one tries to stop it. While many of these shows offer less-than-ideal ways for kids to learn about bullying, they do offer parents a great opportunity to start a discussion about the very serious and all-too-common topic.
There is also a healthy variety of YouTube’s effective (and humorous) anti-bullying videos and Break’s funny videos to view. With these resources, parents have ample opportunities to discuss and view bullying with their kids, coaching them to avoid being the bad guy and stand up for themselves if the victim.
What is a Bully?
Bullying is a type of aggressive behavior that involves a person deliberately and continually trying to cause another person harm or discomfort, explains the American Psychological Association. Bullying can be physical, verbal or done over the internet. The person who is being bullied has usually done nothing to have caused this to happen — in other words, it is not the victim’s fault; it’s the bully’s fault that this is occurring. Victims traditionally have a lot of problems defending themselves, which may perpetuate the problem.
No Laughing Matter
Although television shows, movies and videos often make light of bullying, in real life it’s no laughing matter. The Stop Bullying website points out that the victims of bullying can have very real physical reactions, including sleep deprivation, self-induced sickness, reclusiveness and they even sometimes contemplate suicide.
Watch Shows Together
Parents who want to talk to their kids about bullying can use one of the many television programs to start the conversation. Although many reality shows may not be appropriate for young kids to watch, family-friendly programs like “Phineas and Ferb” or “Arthur”— which features a character with bullying traits named Binky — can give parents ample opportunities to start talking to their kids about this serious topic. Parents can point out the characters as being bullies and then ask their kids if they know anyone who is like them at school, as well as if they have ever been treated like that by anybody.
Grab a bully by the horns and educate yourself enough to be able to talk to your children to teach them how to recognize and combat a bully.
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