Bullying No More

Bullying No More

Bullying detection and technology playing new role in fight against student bullying at colleges


However, for some it may mean a period of time of bullying which could also include humiliation and alienation. Bullying affects everyone, from those who are victims to the bullies themselves, parents, professors and administrators. The key to preventing or reducing bullying in colleges is pro-activeness through the use of technology, which today is easily achieved through new available bullying detection software, applications and sensing devices. By leveraging these technologies, college administrators and security personnel are able to respond immediately, or investigate bullying incidents.

These tools allow for officials to appropriately address behaviors to prevent it from continuing as well as preventing the activity from escalating. Everything that can be done must be done to eliminate the potential for significant emotional and mental harm. It is well documented that bullying has the potential to lead students to commit suicide. The loss of any student to suicide is a tragedy. Colleges who do not take a proactive approach to student bullying are left vulnerable to devastating repercussions that include negative perceptions of students and prospective students, negative press, parental anger and concern, scrutiny and liability. In fact, there have been prior bullying incidents where K-12 schools and colleges have been sued by parents of bullied students. Some of these stories have made national headlines.

Bullying is not new; however with social media it has become more prevalent. The growth in bullying is making it much more paramount for colleges to be more vigilant in this fight. The National Center for Educational Statistics reports that more than one out of every five (20.8%) students being bullied and Yale University studies show bully victims are two to nine times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims. there are many reasons behind why students tend to bully one another. These acts often stem from factors such as parental upbringing, exposure to violent television shows and movies, mistreatment and low self-esteem.

Before social media, bullying typically took place on school premises, with a student being “safe” from further harassment and harm upon returning to their dorm room. However, in today’s digital age world, bullying begins on campus and then follows students back to their rooms or homes via social media, leaving no escape or end in sight. All too often we see students being bullied and harassed through social media posts. This results with the bullying evolving into cyberbullying and it taking on a life of its own, leaving bullied students publicly shamed, distressed and in despair, which if unaddressed, has been known to eventually become a life safety issue linked to risk of student suicide.

Cyberbullying has changed the nature of bullying in today’s society. The stereotype of a bully has always been a “bigger athletic student” or “jock” picking on a “small nerdy student.” However, with cyberbullying, anyone can hide virtually anonymously behind a keyboard (or smart phone) and embarrass, make threats and post harmful information about others online. In the case of cyberbullying, a bully publishes harmful and/or harrassing posts on social media for everyone to see, which can extend well beyond one’s local community and social circle.

Students being cyberbullied are haunted by these posts, not only while on computers at school but also on their home computers, on computers at other locations and every time they turn on their smartphone or tablet. Others who may live further away may also see these posts if they are friends with the bullied student on social media or share friends within the students’ same social media circle, making the public span of shaming and embarrassment that much more visible and wider.

Cyberbullying’s public dissemination and access severely impacts a student’s ability to concentrate at school, study at home and participate in social activities, leading them to a life of humiliation, alienation and isolation. Yet, it is through the emergence of cyberbullying that school security technology companies have found creative ways to build a better mouse trap for empowering schools and colleges with ways to detect bullying of all kinds, which include not only cyberbullying but also verbal bullying, social bullying and physical bullying. Digital Fly has created a platform that provides administrators with tools for receiving alerts related to social media, bullying, and threats of self-harm. These tools also play a critical part in investigating incidents and developing approaches for helping students who have been bullied.

With bullying being so distressing and traumatic, this makes it very easy for bullying victims to avoid discussing and addressing the problem, which only allows the bullying to perpetuate. It is because of this that administrators bear the responsibility in playing a key role in being aware of bullying behaviors and activity for purposes of intervening and taking appropriate disciplinary action when needed.

The best way for schools and colleges to fight against bullying is to have proper measures and penalties in place to prevent bullying or stopping the activity before it gets serious. Schools must take appropriate action as soon as they are made aware of a problem. They also cannot rely on the victim to come forward. They must be vigilant in looking for signs of individuals being victims as well as for indicators that someone is a bully. Many experts have written excellent practical ways to prevent bullying that are useful for administrators. A great website that offers strategies for administrators is www.stopbullying. gov. Once administrators have put practical steps in place, leveraging bullying detection technologies is a critical key for supporting and aiding in their anti-bullying efforts and policies.

Social media awareness for bullying is one approach that administrators are using for staying on top of bullying activity. There are a number of social media awareness, monitoring and alert tools on the market today that provide administrators insight into the lives of students who could be in distress from being bullied. Even if a student is not being cyberbullied, we at Digital Fly have found that students use social media as a diary. A social media awareness tool has the ability to pick up bullying activity that could raise red flags of bullying behaviors to administrators so they can immediately intervene and respond to before the bullying gets out of hand.

The Bullying Incident Management System (BIMS) is another type of solution that is beneficial for today’s schools and colleges. Students and their parents are given the ability to anonymously report bullying through a mobile application to school officials who have access to a management portal for responding and addressing bullying incidents. This allows students, parents and administrators to partner in the fight against bullying. This type of system provides students who are scared the ability to speak up with an opportunity to still stand up for themselves and put a stop to their bullying.

Another viable tool meeting administrators’ needs in being aware of bullying activity are bullying detection sensors. New York schools have already started deploying our newest technology, Fly Sense, which includes new sensors in bathrooms and remote locations that detect if bullying or fighting activity is occurring. These sensors work on sound wave technology that learn the pattern of sound over time and then pick up on anomalies. If there is a fight or yelling that is out of the normal school officials are notified in three to five seconds for immediate response.

The explosion of sensor technology and the IOT (Internet of Things) that is being embraced by today’s education sectors has changed the way people collect environmental data. We at Digital Fly have the ability to learn more than ever before about our surrounding environments. The information to be found in bathrooms, locker rooms, remote locations and otherwise previously unmonitored places provides comprehensive and actionable insights for virtually any institution, business or organization that they can use for making more informed decisions and taking more effective actions.

As a school anti-bullying leader and antibullying technology provider, the biggest bullying problem I see happening in schools and colleges is cyberbullying and bullying on campus in locations where it is challenging to place cameras, such as bathrooms. Administrators continually ask for tools that provide alerts when a bullying event is potentially occurring. With cyberbullying, the bullying takes place off school grounds, yet schools are finding themselves responsible.

This being the case, it is critical those administrators have tools working in the background that send actionable information back to them so they are aware of bullying activity, mentions of suicide or self-harm, even when this is happening off school grounds. Schools asking for automation are also looking for solutions where they cannot place a camera or staff. Our Fly Sense product was specifically created to meet this need.

We are at a time where technology has exacerbated the bullying problem. However, it is also technology that is providing a critical factor in the solution to reducing and potentially eliminating bullying. Through the emergence of new advanced security and bullying detection technologies, today’s colleges and students are empowered with greater information, the ability to respond and the ability to investigate bullying. Technology is also making it harder for the bullies to hide from repercussions and accountability.

This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.

Digital Edition

  • Campus Security & Life Safety Magazine - May / June 2023

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