Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will… cause equally if not more significant, long-term damage to young people especially in the modern, anonymous social media landscape.
That’s how the saying goes right?
In the digital age, bullies no longer just throw punches in the playground. They target their victims from the safety of their bedrooms behind beaming profile pictures and online messaging. Every year, around 450 000 Aussie kids are cyber-bullied online. Considering social media and technology have gifted bullies a new way to torment their victims, it makes sense that technology would step in to help shut it down too.
But an online tool called “Reword” is using technology to fight back. Starting as a Google Chrome extension last year, the program works a lot like a spell-checker – when you type something nasty, mean or hurtful online, a red line strikes through the phrase, encouraging you to rethink your language before sending it.
It seems to be working too – 87% of the teenagers using the extension rephrased their messages after the red line appeared and bullying behaviour plummeted 67% per user.
Despite the red line suggesting you rephrase it, there’s technically nothing stopping you from sending it. But the theory is that a lot of cyberbullying behaviour is impulsive and therefore simply reminding people of the damaging nature of their words is enough to prompt many people to think more critically about what they’re about to send, and hopefully delete it completely.
But there’s one glaring problem – how could one program keep on top of every awful, coded insult the youths of today throw at each other, in a world where emojis of eggplants and peaches are pretty much sexting? Thankfully, they’ve had the foresight to install an “add your own” feature to the website, so anyone can add any nasty words, phrases (or more likely acronyms) that may have escaped the adults. Realistically, outright insults are just one part of bullying over social media. Leaving people off events or posting cruel photos can be just nasty. But you’ve got to start somewhere, and so far the extension has been a booming success – with over 700 000 downloads since March 2016. Now the initiative, which is a collaboration between Headspace and communications agency Leo Burnett Melbourne, wants to create an app so it will work where most teenagers access social media – their phones.
But that’s where you come in. To get the app up and running, they’re asking the public for a little bit of help – they’re looking to raise $150 000.
So if you want to help the fight against cyber-bullying, then head to their website and chuck in a dollar or ten, and add a few insults to the database while you’re at it.
Take some action
Support the crowdfunding campaign to take the app to the next levelTake me there