my anti-bullying technology search

Do you suffer weekday morning dread?

More often and intensely felt on Sunday afternoon/evening, in anticipation of walking through the office door on that dreaded Monday morning. This can be the curse of company executives, office workers, accountants, warehouse staff, delivery drivers, retail staff, teachers and even students as young as 5 years old

Many a time, it’s simply due to the fact that the person is not in their dream job. They wish they could do something better, but they’re just not motivated to do anything about it. That is a subject for a whole different conversation.       Other times though, it can be because of workplace or playground bullying.  Unlike many articles written these days where even the smallest incident is casually labelled “bullying”, I’m talking about a long term, methodical, calculated regime of either verbal, physical and/or emotional abuse.

According to the OHS Act 1986 (S.A.)

Workplace bullying means any behaviour that is repeated, systematic and directed towards an employee or group of employees that a reasonable person, having regard to the circumstances, would expect to victimise, humiliate, undermine or threaten and which creates a risk to health and safety.’

At some point in our lives, most people have been bullied in accord to this definition.  Either in the workplace, in social circles, at school.  Both my wife and I have first hand experience with this.  I was the target of relentless bullying at school.  My wife has been the victim of targetted attacks from her time in the workforce.

And at some point, either maliciously, or unwittingly, a lot of us have also been someone’s bully.

Some of you may have been aware of the significance of the recently past March 15th, 2013.  It represented the NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION AGAINST BULLYING AND VIOLENCE 2013.

Unfortunately, I did not personally see a lot of exposure to raise awareness of this event.  Then again, I may have missed it.  I avoid news media as much as possible, as I see a lot of it’s content as a form of bullying as well, but that is a different conversation again.

We now live in a world where bullying is no longer confined to work or school hours. Bullying is no longer about someone waiting for you every day outside school to beat you up, spit at you or hurl verbal abuse at you.  This all happens through digital communication mediums.  Text messages, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Blogs, Email, and the list goes on and on.

Unlike 10-20 years ago… you can no longer go home, shut the door and feel safe for a few hours.  Now when you arrive home… you get to face bullying alone in your bedroom, while you are alone with your phone, email or facebook profile.

This is where some recent research I have been doing comes in.

I initially started out wanting to provide parents with a tool which would allow them to monitor their school child’s behaviour online, and to be alerted when something untoward occurred during their time online.  On investigating a number of popular tools in this category, I realised 2 things.

  • The problem is too big to invest time into individual cases on my own. Certainly,  it needs to be done. However, I am just one person.  Much like the famed Elvis water dumping helicopter called in to assist with major bush fires, I believe my efforts would be best served tackling the issue at the organisational level.
  • Secondly, the technology I reviewed just didn’t cut it for what I felt was needed.
    • It either wasn’t intuitive enough for the average, non-technical parent to install, navigate and get the greatest effectiveness out of it
    • or, it simply lacked what I considered to be mandatory features to make it an effective tool for anti-bullying.

In addition to these points, it was made clear to me that bullying is NOT just a school issue.  It can, and does occur just as frequently in the workplace!!

So, my search took a slight detour to an Australian based organisation that I believe fits virtually all the points I was looking for.  I need to make clear here that no technology is EVER perfect.  No single piece of software, or technology will ever tick every single box required.  But of all the solutions I have found, this is about the closest I can find to perfect.

Among it’s many features, in addition to providing comprehensive protection at work or school, it ensures a safe environment while at home or out of the office.  This way school children, office workers, and tele-workers can be protected on and off site.

What does it provide in the way of protection? Read on:

  • identifies and blocks potential predators
  • blocks inappropriate communications (racism, sexual abuse etc etc)
  • identifies vulnerable victims of cyber-abuse and those considering self harm.
  • On the back of this, there are all sorts of customisable responses to these situations.
    • Blocking, Alerts, monitoring, even directing the person to something like the kids help line service, and alerting the school counsellor, or HR manager.

All of this is across multiple platforms – not just facebook, not just social media – while these categories feature heavily as areas of interest.

Are you a school principal?  Are you part of the pastoral care team?  Are you a HR manager, or involved in the HR process?  We need to talk.

I believe this technology has the capability to make vast improvements in the morale of both students and employees.  This in turn will improve productivity in both office work and homework. Without trying to sound melodramatic (although it’s hard not to) it can help to save lives.

There are too many stories of kids and adults taking their own lives as a result of bullying, both online, and offline.  I cannot provide anything to aide in the offline world… but this behaviour invariably spills into the online world.  If you have an early detection mechanism in place to assist at this level, your battle is half won!

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