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Can technology in education help stamp out bullying?

Read how edtech can be used in schools to stop cyberbullying and social media harassment.

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Bullying is a crushing experience for a child. Today, that experience can be all encompassing due to the ubiquitous nature of technology, mobile devices and social platforms. There is little respite from online attacks; victims can potentially be bullied 24 hours a day, with devastating consequences.

Technology, while it is an enabler for aggressive behavior like online cyberbullying, can also provide an antidote. Technology in education can be used as a preventative solution to minimise harassment in schools, and encourage better communication between educators and pupils. Here’s four ways to use edtech to combat bullying:

1. Don’t block, educate and monitor

Some schools block access to non-educational websites to save students from temptation, especially social media. This can minimise cyberbullying but it doesn’t encourage pupils to become responsible netizens. What’s more, it’s not a simple solution; Facebook or Twitter might be flagged as inappropriate, but what if they are needed by high schools pupils that are researching communication around current topics or studying digital marketing?

Rather, support your teachers to educate pupils on the importance of appropriate online behavior, and how to be upstanding online citizens. Couple this with technology to monitor the use of devices, track the use of search terms that pupils use, as well as the websites they visit. Apple’s Classroom app, for example, permits educators to remotely view any of their students’ iPads, assist with password resets, and launch specific apps or websites.

2. Edtech software for online safety

Edtech in our schools has given pupils an entirely new way to connect, learn and communicate. As a result, we need new methods of online safety to protect pupils’ digital footprints. Companies have designed edtech software to help schools stop bullying ahead of time, as quickly as possible. IT asset management solutions, for example, can track, monitor, and manage all school devices and equipment like ActivPanels, Promethean’s interactive front of class displays, across individual schools and entire areas.

School IT staff can use edtech software like NetSupport to perform real-time monitoring and search for exact phrases and keywords in several languages to keep an eye on questionable activity. Keywords are presented in a word cloud format, so school officials can be alerted to recurring themes across groups of students.

If any keywords suggest bullying behaviour, a flag is created based on the threat level.

3. Encourage communication

Some educators or parents prefer to take a transparent approach to monitoring children’s online behaviour. Apps like Bosco aim to provide insights on device by device level, with input from the pupil. This includes tone of voice to detect mood, location services, image scanning, keyword flagging and social media activity, to give an overall picture of a child’s state of mind.

What it doesn’t provide, however, is the exact terms or image shared. This protects a pupil’s privacy and encourages educators and parents to sit with pupils to discuss the issues first hand.

Other online platforms like tootoot provide a secure and anonymous method for pupils to communicate about and report different forms of bullying. These tools raise awareness of this widespread issue, and improve the learning environment in schools.

4. Find the potential in AI

The manual task of trawling through social sites, flagging harassment and online trolling is incredibly time consuming, and leaves wide gaps for error. Machine learning tools, however, recognise patterns in data and language. They learn and optimise its information to identify the subtle difference between bullying behaviour and harmless communication.

Protecting pupils with AI and machine learning is still in its early development. The technology has to process learnings beyond obvious triggers, but also determine seemingly innocuous messages to identify genuine harassment. Keeping up with developments in this technology space, however, will identify more sophisticated methods to protect pupils against bullying in tomorrow’s educational landscape.

There are a whole range of tools available to help schools monitor students’ online activity and empower communication around online cyberbullying. Effective use of technology in education provides teachers with collaborative tools to deliver interactive learning experiences. Edtech is equally instrumental in preserving students’ online safety, to prevent antisocial or damaging behaviour.