Phones to tip teachers off to bullying as TipTXT launches

According to a recent study, one in every four Australian students is affected by bullying. Unfortunately, teachers can’t be the protective force at every instance, so a new solution has been devised.

Most kids have some form of access to a mobile phone these days, whether or not the device is theirs or from their parents, and with that in mind, one company has devised a way of helping inform educators about possible bullying both on and off the playground.

Called TipTXT, the service is a dedicated line to schools that will take text messages sent in from students and parents, and inform teachers of the goings on of that school.

Rolled out in this country by Blackboard, the system was designed to take notice of people being bullied both on and off campus, with the sender receiving a notification from the school immediately after, and a teacher being informed.

“Students can report incidents and concerns that are happening to them or that they’re seeing happening to others via confidential text messaging,” said Blackboard’s Steve Watt. “When a text is received it goes directly to a schools dedicated inbox, and it gets routed to someone within the school. At the same time, the student automatically gets a response from the school to reassure them.”

For serious cases where something dangerous and potentially illegal might be happening, the TipTXT system can be setup with keyword filters to highlight the information as urgent and/or send it to the authorities, which could mean a word like “knife” or “kill” has been used.

“TipTXT isn’t just for people to self report bullying. Because it’s confidential, it’s entirely probably that someone else is aware that this bullying activity is happening, so this is where the power of the crowd really comes into play,” said Watt.

In America, the technology has been out for a while, but closer to home, there are only a few schools using it.

Over in Queanbeyan, Karaba High School has started using the TipTXT service, with Acting Principal Colin Devitt saying that “some students may feel more comfortable using text messages rather than having a face-to-face meeting. Using a technology already available to alert school officials without having to be in their presence or be seen is a very effective means of communication and it could really help prevent bullying.”

Quite a few kilometres north of here is Ballina High School, which is also taking up the technology.

“We’ve got lots of anti-bullying policies at the moment, and this is a way of confidentially telling people,” said Andrew Playford, a teacher and librarian at Ballina High School.

“It’s not just for bullying,” said Playford, who is also the head of an anti-bullying campaign, adding that “it’s a way of reporting crime, suspicious activity, and any mental health issues, so it’s going to be another resource for us to use.”

For schools, the service is something that will cost money, with the yearly cost of $125 required to set up the service, while short messages sent from a phone are priced at the standard text messaging cost for the person’s mobile plan.

“Any tool that’s worthwhile would be good,” said Playford. “If it’s going to save some lives, what price is that?”