The North Bend Eagle

 

Seventh graders plan app to fight bullying

by Nathan Arneal
Published 11/11/15

A team of NBC seventh graders have been volunteering their time to find a way to use technology to combat bullying.

The goal of the six students is to come up with an idea for a smart phone application and enter it in the Verizon Innovative App Challenge.

Lisa Richardson saw an item about the contest on Facebook and showed it to her twin seventh graders, Carter and Delaney.

At dinner, the Richardsons talked about what kind of app they could make and the idea of an anti-bullying tool came up.

“I know being a parent that middle school bullying is a tough situation,” Lisa said. “So we talked about it and they just ran with it. I was really impressed when they actually came up with something that was appropriate and something they could actually do.”

One of the contest requirements was to have a sponsor affiliated with the school. Lisa Richardson sent out Facebook message to several NBC teachers and math teacher Aubrey Miller volunteered to guide the team.

Soon, Delaney and Carter recruited four of their friends: Bethany Wiebold, Josie Spiker, Owen Brodd and Sami McDonald. The group started meeting at least twice a week before school. Brainstorming sessions produced several ideas for how an app could be used to combat bullying.

“Bullying is a big problem that has a lot of negative effects on kids our age,” Wiebold said. “So we decided that’s something we wanted to focus on.”

The point of the contest is to come up with a concept for an app. The group won’t actually build the app, though if they advance far enough in the contest, they will receive a grant to help pay to turn their ideas into an actual app people can download to their phones.

The group of seventh graders has come up with several features for the app, which they named “Clique Me.” One involves a game where the user reads a bullying scenario then chooses a response to the situation from four choices. If the response is correct, the user earns points that can be used to “buy” virtual clothes or gear for Pete, the avatar mascot of the app.

There will be chat rooms to talk to other students experiencing bullying. There is also a feature that allows users to upload their own journal writings about their experiences.

“You can keep them private or you can put them out there for other people with accounts to see, so they can give you advice on what you need to do,” McDonald said. “Maybe someone will give them feedback on what they can do. Or maybe it’s just good to write about it and get it out. Sometimes talking about hard things can help you get over it.”

The app will also allow users to anonymously report instances of bullying to school administrators.

“We think that will help a lot because a lot of times the reason people don’t report bullying is because they don’t want people to know it was them and they think that will make it worse,” Wiebold said.

Cyberbullying has been growing in recent years as technology spreads and is now perhaps an even bigger issue that physical or verbal bullying. The group wants to address that as well.

“I think cyberbullying is bigger because a lot more people can see it if they post it on these giant web sites,” Brodd said.

Clique Me would have a feature that allows the user to block people who send offensive or threatening messages. The app would use the sender’s IP address to block them on all social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. They also have an idea to block messages or posts if they contain certain keywords.

The next step for the group is to design a mock up of what the app would look like and how users would interact with it. They have already been working on an essay and a video describing the purpose of their app.

The deadline for the Verizon contest is Nov. 24. After that a winner from each state will be chosen. Winning teams will receive a $5,000 grant for their school. Winning ideas will then advance to regional and national competitions.

Lisa Richardson, the parent who originally found the information about the contest online, said what started out as a cool technology project has turned into something more.

“I think initially it was, ‘Let’s do this app thing,’” she said, “but then as they started talking about it and working on the essay and video, that really got them engaged. It wasn’t just about the technology, but it got them talking as a group. It became serious for them.”

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