Can Blackboard’s TipTxt Help Prevent Bullying?

Education software provider Blackboard has announced a new service called TipTxt, a two-way anti-bullying serviced that students can utilize to anonymously notify school officials when bullying or safety issues occur, reports Ed Miller from Blackboard Blogs.

Every K-12 school in the United States will be offered this service free of charge. The only thing that is required by the school is a dedicated phone line, and Blackboard takes care of all other costs.

Blackboard has been working to solve educational issues since their founding and are most notable for course management programs utilized widely across higher education. Now they have created this service in hopes that K-12 schools can become safer learning environments for everyone.

Almost all students already have the tool needed to prevent bullying — a mobile phone — and Blackboard is just providing them with a way to use it. Blackboard thinks a fast, easy and cheap way to report bullying is a much needed service, with an estimated 160,000 children who miss out on school due to fear of attack or intimidation of other students.

According to the National Education Association, many children are reluctant to report bullying to school administrators or even their own teachers. They fear being viewed as "weak" or being labeled a "snitch." While many school leaders have implemented programs to teach students to recognize and respond to bullying and other safety issues, students need even more help.

With TipTxt, Blackboard has attempted to remove the barriers to reporting bullying.

Studies confirm that young people increasingly prefer to use text or SMS to communicate. According to a Pew Internet and American Life Study, 75 percent of children between the ages of 12 and 17 carry a cell phone, and people as young as eight text on them.

It works almost as immediately as a hotline conversation with the added bonus of anonymity. This will hopefully make it more likely for students to report uncomfortable or even potentially dangerous situations — but it also raises questions about potential abuse and, ironically, the potential for TipTxt to serve as a new conduit for bullying by false reporting.

The process is simple — first a student either involved in or who has witnessed a bullying incident texts a descriptive message to the school's uniques TipTxt number and the messages will be delivered to school administrators who can then take immediate action.

Bully prevention is a delicate, and tiered, process. It requires involved parents, conscientious school administrators and, maybe most importantly, empowered students. Technology is an invaluable tool in the mission to end bullying. It reminds students they are not alone – and gives them access to instant, expert help.

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