By Teresa Gomez, Communications and Marketing

27 September 2016 - 16:10

Around 250 school children have taken part in the 1st anti-cyberbullying hackathon organised by the british council school. How to help a victim not feel alone? And how to help parents understand what cyberbulling is? These have been the focus most used by students developing apps and widgets to combat cyberbullying. The winning apps will be developed by experts, will be free and have open access.

The winners of the 1st Hackathon organised by the British Council School will see their work become reality. Thousands of children and parents from around the world will, in the future, be able to download these mobile apps on their phones, and be able to understand what cyberbulling is and how to fight it.

The project has taken root as a result of the first trip which Parry Aftab, the renown American lawyer (advisor to Facebook, Disney and Nickelodeon amongst others and the founder of the international platform stopciberbullying) took to Spain last year.

“A student put to me, how children might explain such a problem to their parents, how to make them understand and they thought that perhaps, with a mobile phone app, the conversation would be easier; that they would understand that this was a case of bullying. And that this would also help parents, to know how to act”, she explained in her presentation.

In this way, the British Council School undertook to host the first anti-bullying Hackathon in Spain, so that these ideas would spread and involve the whole student community. Over two days (the 24th and 25th of September) more than 240 students, between the ages of 8 and 17 years old, have worked at creating mobile apps which were then assessed by an expert jury including Allan McCullough, President and Founder of the Canadian not-for-profit organisation Child Safety Research & Innovation Center and CEO of Entertaining Knowledge; Francisco Batuecas, Head of Systems, Communication and Security for the Secretary of State Security Department at the Ministry of the Interior, Óscar Fernández, Director of Education at Microsoft España, Jorge Flores Fernández, Founder and Director of Pantallas Amigas and the author of various publications and educational materials related to the safe use of new technologies and Gillian Flaxman, Headmistress at the British Council School.

The results were announced yesterday and projects will come alive through the network. In total, more than 30 projects were put forward and three stood out for their originality. One called “Bystanders”, aimed at those witnessing cases of bullying “because they too are part of of the problem, and part of the solution”; another called BCS – SCB (British Council School – Stop Cyber Bullying, aimed at helping parents; and the last one, where “virtual therapy” helps with emotional counselling of victims.

For the British Council School, cooperation with families is very important in the case of bullying. “Helping parents to understand what cyberbullying is and how to confront it, as well as providing support to students and victims, so that they can detect and explain the problem, is crucial. Prevention and coordination between students, institutions and families is important” experts point out.

Key cyberbulling experts such as Alejandra Frías, a magistrate and advisor to the Ministry of Justice in Spain, where she has worked on various legislative reforms and activities related to Cyber-security and Cyber-terrorism, have participated in this initiative. Frias detailed how “although Spain has a relatively low level of cyberbulling compared to Europe, amongst other factors, because of good family communication, cases are nevertheless increasing”. And she emphasised that “insulting someone on the Internet is a crime, which has serious consequences”.

In this regard, she warned that “we provide a lot of personal information over the Internet and on Social Media” and she advised that “before taking any action, or sharing any information, however innocent this may appear, one should always think first, where this information may end up”. She also commented how as a result of new media digitalisation, “it is now necessary for companies and institutions to recruit new professionals with new skills and degrees, specialised in these kind of crimes”.

On her part Parry Aftab, emphasised “the children's enormous effort and creativity in not just supporting their individual projects, but also their levels of imagination in developing the mobile apps”. Aftab also reminded everyone of the importance of parents' early action, when they receive any indication from their children, such as a simple change of attitude. “We have to listen to them and be alert to any change of behaviour, because they could be trying to tell us something. Perhaps a parent may not know how to act, because he has no experience in this area. But they do have life-experience and it is important for children to see their parents as being ready to help and as part of the solution”. “Today, we have many tools and platforms available to help us take the first steps in understanding how to listen”.