Canada Combats Bullying with SMS

22 May

In British Columbia, schools in the Tri-Cities are preparing to launch a text messaging platform aimed at combating bullying. The service will be ready to go at the beginning of the school year in September, and will operate between the hours of 3 and 11pm.

The platform was presented to school trustees by the I Am Someone Society, an organization established to end bullying. To create the technology, I Am Someone partnered with BC211, a network that links users to community and government services.

Education authorities recognize the need for SMS messaging as a way to stay in touch with young people. The objective is to use text message conversations as a conduit to other means of support, such as phone or live counseling.

With scope for anonymity and arms-length communication, texting is often the most trusted form of engagement for teens and young people. A youth services coordinator in Port Coquitlam supported this notion during the meeting last week, citing compelling statistics regarding teen usage of SMS:

  • Girls between 13 and 15 send roughly 250 texts per day
  • Boys between 13 and 15 send roughly 175 texts per day

The coordinator described the texting platform as a ‘larger net for those youth that might have fallen through the cracks’ adding that SMS provided the best solution for teens who are unable or unwilling to make phone calls. 

The agreement between school trustees and the I Am Someone Society requires the data to be provided to the latter so they can analyze how the service is being used, how long each interaction lasts, the nature of those interactions, and other information that could help combat bullying in the future by identifying gaps in the network. If teens text in large numbers about a service that doesn’t exist in their community, the platform will highlight that.

The Mayor of PoCo is optimistic about the future of the service, hoping to see it rolled out in Vancouver and, ultimately, the whole of Canada.

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