May 26, 2015
Despite nationwide efforts to address bullying in schools, parents still have major concerns about their children’s school environments. Bullying ranks among the top worries of parents of children and teens today. While every state has passed some sort of law or policy regarding bullying, it continues to take place in various forms from elementary to high school.
In response, a growing number of tech startups are dedicated to the prevention and reporting of bullying via mobile apps. More and more schools are investing in mobile technology with the goal of making their campuses safer.
While virtual assaults may not be physical, they are no less damaging. One-fourth of teenagers report they have experienced repeated bullying via their cell phone or on the Internet while over half of young people report being cyberbullied, according to NoBullying.com. Over half (55 percent) of all teens who use social media have witnessed outright bullying via that medium.
John Barker, president of New York-based advertising agency Barker DZP, was so intrigued by the concept he invested in one such company: STOPit, which promotes an app that lets students anonymously report bullying.
Since its August 2014 launch, STOPit has been adopted by nearly 100 schools in 16 states, and is being deployed in Canada. Earlier this year, the New Jersey startup raised $2.6 million from private investors. Schools purchase a license to the mobile technology that can range from 75 cents to $3 per year depending on the length of the agreement. With the app, students can shoot video, screen shots, take pictures and anonymously send them to school administrators and/or parents.
“Technology created this problem (of cyberbullying),” says Barker, “and technology can solve it.”
An increasing number of students have access to a mobile device. The most recent Cisco VNI Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast estimates there will be 5.2 billion global mobile users, up from 4.3 billion in 2014.
APPS SERVE AS POWERFUL DETERRANT
“Our goal is that ultimately is no one needs to use this app,” he says.
STOPit founder Todd Schobel agrees.
“Kids are more conscious when STOPit comes into a school,” he said. “They think twice before posting. Schools we’re in are reporting a 60%-plus reduction in issues from last year to this year because kids are thinking twice.”