Old habits die hard. Sometimes, they need a little extra push, which is the spirit behind many of the anti-bullying initiatives sweeping through the schools and communities in our country, particularly in recent months. The application Word Bully, developed by Iconosys, Inc., a mobile application development company out of California, allows parents to customize a filter on Android phones for profanity, vulgarity or any threatening messages sent to a child.
According to Iconosys, Inc., 40 percent of children in the U.S. own an Android phone, offering justification for the application being limited to that device and not the other mainstream smartphones such as the iPhone and Blackberry. It is available for $9.95 and is one of several products offered by Iconosys, Inc., whose mission is to produce products that enhance and make life safer for families. Some of their other products such as Trick or Tracker and Latch Key may ring a bell as they offer the ability for a parent to track the location of a child and be assured of a child’s safety when they are not reachable. Iconosys, Inc. has been working on producing this application since the inception of the company in 2009.
While bullying in various forms is as old as mankind itself, cyberbullying, made possible by technological advancements, offers particular challenges and emotional harm for many children. Among many factors which make it so challenging is the fact that this kind of bullying can be done 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The almost exclusive use of cell phones by young people these days also poses a challenge, leaving many parents in the dark as to when their child might be the target of bullying. It is harder to track who their children are talking to and when they are talking, which leaves parents seemingly defenseless.
Associate Professor of Education Dr. Juan Toro said, “The use of cell phones and texting proliferate among children today and parents have the responsibility not only to protect children from this type of activity, but they are also responsible to teach their children about privacy and what that really means. The development of this type of product is good news for parents.”
A product like Word Bully gives parents and kids a tool to fight back and to prevent cyber-bullying when it initially occurs, since a feature to “black list” certain individuals is also available through the program.
Since bullying is not confined to childhood, discussions on the value of these products center around the possibility that children cannot always be protected from their peers or people exhibiting mean behavior. “I would imagine Facebook bullying to be more common,” Assistant Professor of Communications Dr. Colin Helb said. Merely monitoring specific trigger words through a cell phone may not be an affective system. Helb describes how texts between friends can be playful and it may set the application off, offering the wrong idea about the situation. “It is an interesting idea if it would work, but there are other arenas for bullying.”
Although there may be flaws with the application, cyber bullying is an issue that should be acknowledged as technology continues to advance. As Toro puts it, “Many of the tragic stories we have heard lately could’ve been prevented if an adult was aware of what was going on.” One might think of initiatives like Word Bully ™ as helping parents do their job—helping children to navigate rough waters until they can swim on their own. Anyone interested in subscribing can go to wordbully.iconosys.com.