February 25 is national Pink Shirt Day. The national observance came about as the result of a teenage boy who was bullied when he wore a pink shirt to school. The next day, dozens of the teen’s classmates, in a show of opposition to bullying, all wore pink shirts to school.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), 1 in 3 students say they have been bullied at school. The 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey found that nationwide, 19 percent of students had been bullied on school property during the 12 months before the survey, while nearly 15 percent had been bullied electronically in that same time period.
While face-to-face bullying is still common, cyber-bullying – bullying via email, text messages, instant messaging, chat rooms, social media sites, videos, and pictures – is on the rise, according to BullyStatistics.org. With most kids today carrying a mobile device, kids who are cyberbullied have a harder time getting away from the behavior because:
- Cyberbullying can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and reach a kid even when he or she is alone. It can happen any time of the day or night.
- Cyberbullying messages and images can be posted anonymously and distributed quickly to a very wide audience. It can be difficult and sometimes impossible to trace the source.
- Deleting inappropriate or harassing messages, texts, and pictures is extremely difficult after they have been posted or sent.
In recognition of Pink Shirt Day, AT&T has compiled a list of apps, tips and tools to help parents protect their kids from bullying.
- BullyBlock – (Android – FREE) – The Bully Block app allows users to covertly record verbal threats and harassment, block inappropriate texts and pictures (e.g. sexting), and utilize auto respond features. In addition, Bully Block blocks bullies that utilize private or unknown numbers to engage in cyberbullying and has instant reporting features that allow the user to email or text abusive behavior to parents, teachers, HR departments, and law enforcement..
- TipSubmitMobile – ( Apple iOS, Android – FREE) – Many kids are afraid to report bullying because of possible repercussions from the bully or they don’t want to be labeled a “rat.” TipSubmit Mobile allows tipsters to submit secure and anonymous tips to Crime Stoppers, law enforcement agencies or school safety officers and administrators. Thousands of communities, schools and government agencies are covered by this application since it connects directly with TipSoft, the world’s largest and North America’s only truly anonymous tip reporting system.
- Bully Stop (Android – FREE) – This app helps protect your children from bully calls, texts and picture messages. The app gives your children the ability to block calls and messages from people they don’t want to hear from. Bully Stop uses a Block List to block unwanted callers and texters. The app maintains a password-protected call log of all attempted contact with your child so you can approach the relevant people, parents, teachers or police and show proof of the bullying communication.
Anti-bullying Tips and Tools
- Take advantage of parental controls. Ask your provider about parental controls available to you. For example, AT&T has Smart Limits which allows parents to block unwanted calls and texts from up to 30 numbers and restrict texting and data usage during specified times of the day.
- Be aware of what your kids are doing online. Talk with your kids about cyberbullying and other online issues regularly – about the following:
- -Know the sites your kids visit and their online activities. Ask where they’re going, what they’re doing and who they’re doing it with.
- -Tell your kids that as a responsible parent, you may review their online communications if you think there is a reason for concern.
- -Ask for their passwords, but tell them you’ll only use them in case of emergency
- -Ask to “friend” or “follow” your kids on social media sites or ask another trusted adult to do so.
- -Encourage your kids to tell you immediately if they, or someone they know, is being cyberbullied. Let them know you will not take away their device if they confide in you about a problem.
- Establish rules about appropriate use of computers, cell phones and other technology.
- Be clear about what sites they can visit and what they are permitted to do when they’re online. Show them how to be safe online.
- Help them be smart about what they post or say. Tell them not to share anything that could hurt or embarrass themselves or others.
- Encourage kids to think about who they want to see the information and pictures they post online. Think about how people who aren’t friends could use the information.
- Remind them to keep their passwords safe and not to share them with friends because sharing that information could compromise their control over their online identities and activities.
Contributor: Kelly Starling, AT&T