Last week, staff of the Hannibal School District #60 announced a new way for students to report bullying in their schools. The BullyBox app, available in a student-friendly way as a cell phone, allows those witnessing bullying to report it in a safe, anonymous way.
We applaud the school district for introducing this app to its students; we hope it will come in handy in curbing the cruelty that so often pervades schools. We hope students take this opportunity seriously and use the app when it’s appropriate, not as a means to get someone in trouble who doesn’t deserve it.
And, most importantly, we hope those who truly exhibit bullying behaviors will get the message: it isn’t OK.
Let us be very clear: BullyBox is a good thing. And it is a great tool.
Parents need to be another tool. We wonder if an app that lets a student report bullying behaviors anonymously will become a substitute for in-person intervention. Victims feel afraid, humiliated, and alone when on the receiving end of bullying. A digital reporting system should not be the end-all solution.
Children need to be taught at home and at school not to eschew in-person intervention in favor of reporting bullying silently on an app. In the end, that really doesn’t make a victim feel empowered in the moment, although it may result in consequences for the bully.
Standing up to a bully is a difficult choice, but children need to become fearless in their defense of victims. That’s not to say kids should jump into a dangerous situation. That’s absolutely not the case.
We owe it to ourselves and our children to teach them to be brave, rational and steadfast in challenging circumstances. Doing so will have an even greater impact on halting peer-on-peer bullying.
Doing so creates independent children with strong moral compasses and ultimately teaches positive behaviors that carry over into society in general.
BullyBox is a useful tool, especially in situations where safety could be compromised.
But the biggest deterrent to bullying starts at home.
It starts by parents teaching their students not to engage in behavior that devalues others, and it continues with parents teaching their students to stand up for what’s right.