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App Developed in Attempt to Help Curb Cyberbullying

Researchers at the University of Colorado have developed an app that can alert school leaders and parents to the possibility that students are being bullied online. The BullyAlert app currently only monitors Instagram accounts, but developers say they are working to add other platforms and hope it will help schools curb cyberbullying. The developers are asking parents, guardians or other “well-wishers” to sign up for this abuse monitoring system and give feedback on its performance. The app is part of the CyberSafety Research Center’s cyberbullying research initiative. Examples of apps of the same genre include Auditor, which monitors Gmail for indicators of bullying or the potential intention of self-harm; Net Nanny, which lets parents monitor and filter kids’ online behavior; and STOP!t, which is used within schools and empowers students to report bullying.

Survey Says Teens Constantly Online

Forty-five percent of teenagers say they are online “almost constantly,” according to a new Pew Research Center study on teens and social media use. That percentage has nearly doubled in just a few years: in a 2014-2015 Pew survey, 24 percent of teens said the same. That rise in the “almost constantly” category is probably linked to “a pretty big jump” in teens who have access to smartphones, researchers say. 95% of teens have access to a smartphone in 2018, whereas three years ago, Pew reported that number was only 73%.

The results were also very interesting when it came to teens answering the question about whether social media has had a mostly positive (31%), neither positive nor negative (45%), or mostly negative (24%) effect on people their age. Adults tend to talk about the negatives of teen social media use in terms of addiction, but instead of addiction, more teens in the survey were worried about social media’s role in bullying and hurting relationships.

Be Best

First Lady Melania Trump is offering a new initiative for American children on the subjects of well-being, social media and opioid abuse. Her program is called simply, “Be Best.” Although the program focuses on some of the biggest issues facing children today, it has also received some criticism for merely being a repackaging of projects that already exist, including an initiative by the National Safety Council that encourages people to talk to their doctors about opioid abuse, and guidelines distributed by the Federal Trade Commission on children’s social media activity. Others have also criticized the title of the campaign, pointing out that children often worry too much about being the “best,” leading to issues such as depression, loss of self esteem, and even thinking that they deserve to be bullied because they feel they are not the “best.”

Digital Self Cyberbullying

More teenagers may be engaging in digital self-harm -- the practice of anonymously posting negative comments about themselves online. In a survey published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, about 6% of students said they have cyberbullied themselves.

Why is this happening? Some kids, who feared they would be bullied by other kids anyway, felt it was better to beat others to the punch or even possibly deflect the bullying since it would appear that some one else had bullied them first. Others could just be looking for attention from either adults or their peers - wanting to see who would worry about them or stick up for them, or even to show how tough they are. No matter what the cause, it is a trend parents need to be aware of and schools counselors will need to figure out how to contend with.

Twitter Joins Study to Reduce Abuse on the App

Twitter is participating in an experiment proposed by to determine whether displaying rules of behavior to its users can cut down on abusive content. Results of the study, which also aims at improved privacy protection, will be evaluated independently. Other similar research has shown that the clear display of rules by institutions makes people more likely to follow them. The news of this experiment could be an interesting discussion starter with kids on online abuse and etiquette. Do they think displaying the rules could change people’s behavior online?

Sandy Hook Mother Devises Program to Tackle School Violence and Bullying

Scarlett Lewis, mother of a student killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, has developed a free program that seeks to promote social and emotional learning and safety in schools and reduce bullying. Lewis says the Choose Love Enrichment Program is designed to bolster resiliency and other skills in students.

Six Steps To Protecting Your Children from Cyberbullying

Although Cyberbullying is a topic is written about extensively, it never hurts to review steps to protect your children. In a blog post on the Today Show’s parenting site, some basics are covered such as talking to your kids about cyberbullying, setting rules for and keeping track of your children’s online activities, finding reliable security software, reminding kids to save evidence of online harassment and reviewing the rules of netiquette.

Can Schools Search Students’ Phones?

Are students' personal cellphones and devices subject to searches at school? That's the question some states are beginning to address with legislation, writes Ariel Fox Johnson, senior counsel for policy and privacy at Common Sense Media, who urges school leaders to provide clarity on policies regarding students' devices. While the Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that police need a warrant to search a cell phone, there has been a little more leeway when it comes to schools. If a student, parent or teacher were to challenge a search, the court must consider why the search was undertaken and if the search’s scope was reasonably related to the circumstances that led to the search in the first place. For example, if a student has video of a disagreement between a student and a teacher in a classroom, it would not be reasonable for a search to be done of all the e-mails on the child’s phone, whereas a search of other videos might be warranted. Do you know what your state’s or district’s policies are on searching students’ digital devices?

Survey Shows a Dip in Bullying Behavior

The number of 12- to 18-year-olds who report being bullied has declined, according to the federal School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey. Data shows that 20.8% reported being bulled in 2015, down from 31.7% in 2007. The survey covers bullying that takes place in schools, on school property, on a school bus, or going to or from school, and it defines bullying by students who report:

  • being made fun of, called names or insulted
  • being the subject of rumors
  • being threatened with harm
  • being pushed, shoved, tripped or spit on
  • being pressured into doing things they did not want to do
  • being excluded from activities on purpose
  • having had property destroyed on purpose


Students were also asked whether they're bullied based on their race, religion, ethnic background or national origin, disability, gender or sexual orientation, which researchers documented as hate-related speech. The reported drops come as schools have increased their focus on bullying prevention and focused more intentionally on what's known as social and emotional learning in an effort to improve school climate. It should be noted that this survey was done before the 2016 election and the bump in bullying that many educators have reported anecdotally.

Parkland Survivors Navigate Twitter

Survivors of the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting are using their voices on Twitter to advocate for gun-control measures -- a move that has garnered some negative attention and criticism, including threats. In a recent interview in The Washington Post, the students share how they are coping with the spotlight and fighting back against "trolls." The interview is an interesting view into what your kids can come up against when online.

Subtweeting and Vaguebooking – New Terms for Subtle Cyberbullying

You probably think you know the different forms of cyberbullying that take place – including kids making comments on photos or tweets that shame and humiliate the poster, and even getting “friends” to gang up and do the same. But kids have gotten wise to the fact that these direct attacks are easy for parents, teachers and administrators to find and use as proof for disciplinary action. Now cyberbullies are getting more subtle.


Subtweeting (as it is called on Twitter) and vaguebooking (on Facebook) are the Internet equivalent of talking about people behind their backs in the digital world. In this new form of cyberbullying, teens reference a person or an issue without mentioning any names. Instead of being confrontational or direct with someone, subtweets and vaguebooking allow people to put nasty comments out there in a sneakier way. Their tweets and posts online are like the whispers in the school hallways that make up the rumor mill.


What makes this so dangerous is that everyone involved knows exactly whom the tweets and posts are referencing, yet no one outside of the school or a circle of friends would have any idea who they are about. Moreover, if confronted, the bullies can deny that the person being hurt was ever truly the recipient of the harsh words. This, of course, adds to the sticky situation that parents, teachers and administrators often find themselves in when dealing with cyberbullies in the first place.

Should Schools Tell Parents About Bullying?

There’s a debate happening around the country about whether schools should be required to tell parents about bullying. At least eight states already have laws requiring notification, however some LBGT advocates argue that schools could be put in the position of outing a student to their parents. In New York State, Jacobe’s Law is a bill that is being pushed by parents of a 12-year-old who committed suicide after repeated bullying, and is possibly close to passage.

Survey Offers Insights From Kids on Bullying

About 77% of students between ages 9 and 11 said they have witnessed bullying, and 1 in 5 admits to being a bully, according to a survey commissioned by the Cartoon Network, and reported on by National Public Radio. Students overwhelmingly reported that the adults in their families model good behavior, while only 14 percent strongly agreed that our nation's leaders model how to treat people with kindness. While this survey’s findings are much in line with others on similar topics, it does stand out for drawing attention to the small positive acts that can make a powerful difference in a child's life. More than 8 out of 10 kids surveyed said it would help kids to be kinder if they all had a person in their lives who really cared and listened.

Curious About How Conspiracy Theories Get Spread Online?

The latest online attacks against the teen survivors of the Parkland shooting is a good case study on how this happens and how quickly it occurs. An article in The Washington Post entitled We studied thousands of anonymous posts about the Parkland attack – and found a conspiracy in the making outlines the part that anonymous social media forums play in the process. It’s a primer on how misinformation is created on purpose, endures endlessly, and the havoc that it plays in lives of those who are targeted.

Tech Free Rooms in Play

As an answer to the problem of technology addiction and not enough just plain old “face time,” school resource officers in the Hamilton Heights School Corporation in Indiana have created technology-free rooms in the middle and elementary schools.

The rooms were made available by the district following concerns about the social and emotional effect of screen time on young people and made available to students for 30 or 40 minutes during the day as a reward. Once they arrive at the room, kids have a chance to play board games, Jenga and foosball –all for some downtime with face time possibilities.

Defining Online Harassment: Everyone Has A Different Idea

According to a new Pew Research Center survey, defining online harassment is just as complicated for the average American user as it is for huge social media companies — and the line on what is and isn’t harassment gets even more fuzzy when gender or race come into the picture. The survey polled 4,151 respondents on various scenarios and asked them whether each one crossed the threshold for online harassment. For example in one scenario, people had widely varying opinions on when the harassment begins between two friends whose online disagreement becomes public, with one friend eventually being threatened by uninvolved third parties.


Men and women also widely disagreed on when an issue online became sexual harassment for a woman whose post is shared by a popular blogger resulting in her receiving vulgar messages, threats and having her photo edited to include sexual imagery. Men, by a wide margin, didn’t find that to be harassment versus the vast majority of women who did. And even when 82% of respondents found messages in one scenario to include racial slurs and harassing insults, only 57 percent thought the social media platform should step in.


These results show that there are roadblocks in addressing the issue of online harassment when people often have trouble agreeing on what qualifies as harassment in the first place, especially when women or minorities are involved. It also paints a troubling picture where even when people do define behavior as harassment, many still hesitate to hold the offenders accountable for it. This lack of agreement on when the social media platform or others should step in seemingly has troubling implications for those who are cyberbullied and how the matter should be handled.

Twitter Expands Hate Speech Rules

Twitter recently has said that it will begin to enforce new rules related to how it handles hateful conduct and abusive behavior taking place on the platform. New guidelines will address hateful images or symbols, including those attached to user’s profiles. The announcement is Twitter's latest attempt, in a difficult year for the company, to clamp down on what many people consider its most pressing issue: disgusting behavior from a significant number of users. Many of the problems on Twitter came into focus after President Trump retweeted videos from a far right group in Britain.

Former President Obama Talks to Prince Harry About Social Media

Former President Barack Obama and the United Kingdom's Prince Harry took to the airwaves for a recent BBC interview where they discussed the potential dangers of social media and how it should be used to promote diversity and find common ground. "One of the dangers of the internet is that people can have entirely different realities. They can be cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases," Obama stated. The former president also echoed something that parents concerned about their kids growing up in a Digital Age try to communicate to their children reiterating that " the truth is that on the internet everything is simplified and when you meet people face to face it turns out they are complicated." Perhaps, something every cyberbully should remember?

Online Tools Implemented for Reporting Bullying

Several states, including Nevada and Colorado, have opened online systems that allow students and others to report bullying incidents. New York City is spending 8 million dollars on a similar system set to launch in 2019. Daniel Kelley, president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, says online options can make it easier for students to report bullying that occurs in and out of school. Right now most schools have a paper based reporting system that has created issues because of the stigma attached to being seen filling out this kind of form. Schools are finding that it is very important to document bullying incident reports otherwise parents may allege that administrators did not address an incident adequately.

France to Ban Cellphones in Schools

Primary- and secondary-school students (up to age 15) in France will not be permitted to use cellphones on campus beginning in September 2018. The country already bans the devices in classrooms, but the total ban will include use during breaks and outside of the classroom. French educators note that 40 percent of punishments in French schools are related to mobile devices and hope the move will be a way to cut down on cyberbullying. However, parents are skeptical that the schools can pull it off. Emmanuel Macron spelled out his intention to ban mobile phones in schools in his campaign platform before his election as French president in May 2017.