Bullying is a serious problem for school-age children, and for children with autism, it is an even bigger issue. A 2012 study by IAN (Interactive Autism Network) found that 63% of 1,167 children with autism, ages 6 to 15, had been bullied at some point, and 39% reported being bullied during the past month. The study also found that 12% of 795 typically developing siblings of children with autism had been bullied during the past month.
In other words, children with ASD were bullied at a rate more than three times higher than their typically developing siblings.
Children with autism are at a higher risk for bullying for several reasons. They have difficulty understanding social cues and conventions, which can lead them to misunderstand situations and make social faux-pas. Many children with autism also engage in self-stimulatory behaviors such as hand flapping or jumping, which can make them targets for bullies. Some also have difficulty with emotional regulation, and other students may find it amusing to taunt students with autism until they have a meltdown.
Autism Daily Newscast has reported repeatedly on issues related to autism and bullying. We have actively followed Kevin Healey’s campaign against cyberbullying in the UK as well as Anthony Iannis in the US.
Bullying affects typically developing children as well, and school districts have struggled for years to find effective ways to prevent it. With the advent of social media, cell phones, and texting, bullying has moved to an entirely new level, where victims can no longer feel safe in their own homes. Schools often feel helpless to stop bullying, since the bullies tend to engage in aggressive behaviors away from the view of teachers and staff. Most students fail to report bullying out of fear of retaliation. Gaining a reputation as a tattletale can affect a student’s social standing and cause them to be a new target for the bullies.
Given the social prohibition against tattling, it follows that bystanders would be more likely to report incidents of bullying if they had an anonymous, easy way to do so. That is the idea behind the Stymie app. The Stymie app offers an easy, anonymous way for students to report bullying to their schools, without fear of being discovered. Through the Stymie app, students can notify school staff of bullying incidents. They can also download evidence, such as screen shots, Snapchats, texts, or instant messages. The notifications are encrypted, anonymous, and confidential, and are not stored within the app, so students do not have to worry about being found out.
As of now, the Stymie app is only available in Australia, but if it is successful, it may catch on in other countries. According to the Stymie web site,
“Stymie allows Australian students to support their peers in cases of overt or covert bullying. We have designed a way to empower bystanders with the confidence to stand up for each other without fear and for students experiencing harm to know that they are not alone.”
A simple, confidential way for bystanders to report bullying may be just the thing to help schools curb bullying. For students at risk, it could be a lifesaver.
To find out more about the Stymie program visit their web site here
You can watch this powerful promotional below: