In recognition of National Youth Violence Prevention Week (March 23rd-27th), SAMHSA has been promoting their KnowBullying app, a free smartphone tool that provides information and guidance on ways to prevent bullying and build resilience in children. The app is designed to address the needs of children ages 3–18 and includes discussion prompts for adults working with children who are bullied, who witness bullying, or who bully others.

KnowBullying also includes useful tips on how to deal with cyberbullying, how to recognize warning signs that a child may be facing a bullying problem, how to work with schools on this issue, and how to find and reach out to local mental health services or other supports.

As a parent of two daughters, 6 and 8, I decided to give this app a try. The home page consists of “Conversation Starters” (which I soon learned can be customized) followed by a three-optioned menu: “My Kids,” “Learn About Bullying” and “Get Help Now.” Since I like to do things in order, I first clicked on “My Kids,” where I was prompted to enter my kids’ names and ages. I immediately discovered that this would enable me to receive specific age-appropriate conversation starters for each child—very handy. You can also set up specific day and time “reminders” for each child, encouraging you to apply these conversation starters in your daily life. Some examples for my almost-nine-year-old include: “What do you usually do when you see bullying going on?” “Would you be willing to tell someone if you had been bullied? Why? Why not?” Of course we all know that we should be talking with our children daily, and we also all know that bullying is one of the many topics we should be addressing. That being said, we are busy, and our kids are busy. I like the idea of being reminded to talk to my kids, and with relevant, age-appropriate questions spoon-fed to me.

I next clicked on the second menu item, “Learn About Bullying.” This was further broken down into three categories, the first being “Stop it on the Spot.” Here I found ideas (helpful for both parents and educators) on how to stop bullying on the spot and support the kids involved. I especially liked the “Do’s and Don’ts” section (e.g., “DO tell your child not to react but to walk away and get help if pursued;” “DON’T focus blame on either child. Instead, gather as much information as possible”). The second category, “Prevent and Protect” reminds parents of the need to talk to kids to determine whether bullying– or something else–is a concern. Risk factors and warning signs are also discussed, as well as how to help prevent cyberbullying (something every parent needs to know). The last category, “How Educators can Help” discusses the important role that the school has in both preventing and addressing bullying. Clear rules against bullying are recommended, and tips are provided on how educators can provide support and effective protection to the child who was bullied.

Finally, the third menu item, “Get Help Now,” includes a range of resources relevant to both parents and educators (e.g., the suicide prevention hotline number, links to several anti-bullying websites, information regarding specific risk groups such as LGBTQ teens, information on child development, etc.).

No child or teenager is exempt from bullying, either as a witness, perpetrator and/or victim.   We need to be engaging our children in conversation about bullying, as well as know how we can best respond and/or intervene in the event of problems. KnowBullying does not provide all of the answers, but it definitely gives us a good place to start.

Jodie Segal