Through a series of questions and games, Back Off Bullies aims to teach students the importance of healthy relationships and friendships free from cyberbullying.
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), along with his 2014 Student Leadership Advisory Board and employees of Motorola Mobility, launched a new anti-bullying app geared toward kindergarten to fifth-grade students to help prevent the development of bullying behavior in young children.
Through a series of questions and games, Back Off Bullies aims to teach students the importance of healthy relationships and friendships free from cyberbullying. Earlier this year, Kirk and his 2014 SLAB chose to address the pervasive issue of cyberbullying during the year’s meetings and programs, and this is the students' first significant step toward combatting cyberbullying in their communities.
“More than 42 percent of students in Illinois have been bullied, and tragically more and more this ends with a young American making the decision to end their life,” Kirk said. “My SLAB decided that a good way to put an end to this problem is to teach our children at a young age when they are starting to use phones and computers about cyberbullying and how exactly it hurts others.”
Each year Kirk invites class presidents from a region of Illinois to become members of the SLAB so that he can better understand the issues facing students throughout the state. This year, almost 30 seniors from Lake, McHenry and northern Cook counties are members of the board. Bullying affects one out of every three students in America ages 12 to 18, and nearly 42 percent of students in Illinois.
Kirk worked with the SLAB members this year to focus on anti-bullying efforts. Kirk has been working to combat bullying in schools through the Safe School Improvement Act, introduced with Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), which would require schools and districts that receive federal funding to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment and would encourage schools to implement effective prevention programs for their students.
Back Off Bullies was developed for Android smartphones with help from experts with the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) after Kirk and SLAB teamed up with the Motorola Mobility Foundation’s Apps4Good program and found that digital games on cellphones and tablets are a successful way to reach young, school-age children. The application is a game that puts the child in control of a character who has to move throughout different levels, trying to accumulate points. The player must answer questions in each level that mimics real-life scenarios. The app is available for Android smartphones and can be downloaded here.