By Crystale Lopez
Bullying has become a widespread problem around the country and the world. It can happen anywhere, in K-12 school systems or universities. Being bullied has taken on many forms including name-calling, teasing, spreading rumors, cyber bullying, threats and physical assault.
Efforts are being made to enact anti-bullying laws and to educate people about the detrimental effects this behavior can have on students, however, it was not until the recent creation of a smartphone application (app) that a student victim or bystander could be empowered to report bullying confrontations in real-time.
Timothy Porter, instructor of management information systems in the H-E-B School of Business and Administration and CEO/founder of Appddiction Studio, has taken a step forward to aid in the fight against bullying. Porter has created StopBullies, a mobile app for the iPhone, and coming soon to Android smartphones, that enables students to report a bullying incident.
“In watching and reading the news, there have been so many reports of kids committing suicide and taking drastic measures because of bullying,” Porter said. “I knew there had to be a way to use technology for students to take a stand against bullies.”
The app configured for secondary schools is a reporting and prevention tool that allows students to write a message, or take a photo or video of the incident, and submit it directly to school administrators. It is anonymous reporting, and images and videos are not stored on the device or within the app. The application is configured specifically for schools and only becomes active when the school signs up for the service.
“After researching resources currently available for students, I found some school districts that have methods of reporting bullying incidents, but they appear cumbersome for students, with some methods requiring the student to answer up to 26 questions after the bullying incident has occurred,” Porter said. “This application is very simple and allows for incidents to be reported instantly with the touch of a button.”
In addition to the incident reporting features, the application also provides helpful information and resources including the “ABC’s of bullying for students, parents, teachers and administrators,” “Warning signs of bullying,” “Cyberbullying,” and “Where can I find help?”
The app is not only beneficial to students, but also to school administrators.
When information is submitted to an administrator, it is logged, date and time stamped, and allows for immediate and anonymous reporting; it also provides the administrator with visual proof the incident has occurred. A Google map with the GPS location of the occurrence allows for faster response time, reduces the time spent investigating, helps the administrator understand what happened more clearly, and minimizes the “he said/she said” factor that can occur between students. Each school is also able to add their own resources to the app to help with anti-bullying.
“There have been instances where the student posts a video of a bullying incident on sites such as YouTube, but if and when a school administrator finds out it can be too late already,” Porter said. “If a student uses StopBullies then the administrator can do something right then and there.”
The app also tackles cyberbullying. Porter explained that if a student is being harassed online, they can take a screenshot of the messages or photos they have received to send to administrators.
“I feel that by empowering the student victim and the bystander to report a bullying incident in real-time right away, that will deter bullies and make them think twice about who is watching and can report their behavior,” he said. “We need to educate kids and remind them that bullying is not right and not okay on any level.”
The National Education Association estimates that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students.
“This app will help kids, especially those who have been bullied, feel like they have a tool to feel safe and come to school because they have the means to take action,” Porter said.
The app available for universities has different characteristics to cater to the college setting and would connect to campus security. The university edition also has a panic button that would signal campus police in the case of a bullying incident or emergency, and has a timer that can be used for situations when a student is walking to their car at night or walking from one building to another.
Porter explained the thought process behind the timer. For example, the student could set the timer for the duration it takes to get to their car from a university building. Once they arrive safely at their destination they would turn the timer off. If, for any reason, they do not turn off the timer then a call is issued to campus police automatically.
“The application is fully developed and I am working with school administrators to implement this into schools and universities,” Porter said. “We need to do something for our kids right now so we do not continue to lose them to bullying.”
The StopBullies app serves to A-Alert, P-Prevent, and P-Protect. For more information, visit www.appddictionstudio.com.