In the old days, bullying on school campuses consisted of either physical or verbal abuse. Because the bullying took place face-to-face, there was no question who the bully was. With the advent of social media and texting, students can bully each other anonymously, online, inflicting damage without getting caught, which can result in a cyber-torment of victims.
To combat this type of behavior, Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES’ Regional Safety Services held a Bullying and School Safety seminar this week to discuss its partnership with Anonymous Alerts, a company that provides an app to help students anonymously report bullying of all types.
“From about 2007 until now, with the advent of iPhones, texting, Facebook and social media, students have been able to use technology for bullying,” said Greg Bender from Anonymous Alerts. Statistically, 90 percent of students do nothing about witnessing cyber-bullying, according to Bender, and 64 percent of bullying victims do not report that they were bullied.
The Anonymous Alerts app, which schools can provide to students and families, allows students to sign in anonymously and report bullying, dangerous behavior, gun or bomb threats—basically anything they consider a threat to themselves or someone else at school.
Students can engage in a two-way “dialogue” via their smartphones with school officials to report anything they deem alarming. The app can also translate transmissions from multiple languages into English if the student reports an incident in another language. Though it is not required, students can even add a screen shot or photo to their report to their school officials.
Not only does this type of technology help students report bullying, it also helps prevent it, since bullies know that they can be reported anonymously by their peers. “The San Pasqual Union School District in California reported a 50 percent decline in student suspensions since using Anonymous Alerts,” according to Bender.
Frederick Lane, an expert on cyber security and the author of several books on the subject, including “Cybertraps for Educators” also presented at the seminar. Today, according to Lane, students have been known to use their phones for sexting and online-survey software “to rate girls,” he said. While Lane acknowledged that social media can be creative and positive, “this type of behavior is destructive and worrisome.”
With software such as Anonymous Alerts, students can let school staff know that behavior such as this is taking place, without risking their own safety. According to Bender, the anonymity of the app is key to students using it. “About 70 percent of students reported that they wouldn’t use the app if it wasn’t anonymous,” he said.
School leaders interested in learning more about Anonymous Alerts should contact the Regional Safety Services at PNW BOCES at 914-248-3692.