Internet and mobile technologies have opened a whole new range of opportunities for society across multiple disciplines such us education, entertainment or health. However, a bad use of those technologies, especially by children, can be transformed into different types of harassment and violence. As time goes by and the issue escalates, proofs can be manipulated and collecting legally valid evidence becomes more and more difficult.
To tackle this issue, DAS (Spain), an insurance and legal services company, has developed Proofup, a tool for early detection and intervention in case of cyberbullying or grooming which helps parents and children to deal with the situation. It enables children to record online harassment while having the content certified by a trusted third party.
DAS-Proofup is one of the winners of the d-LAB societal challenge Fighting cyberbullying through mobile technologies.
Proofup provides tools and support to children, parents and teachers in the prevention, detection and management of cyberbullying. It allows minors to record any hint of online harassment (images, videos, messages).
It has to be emphasised that Proofup is not a parental control app; the kids are the ones who choose whether or not to share the content with their parents, fostering their maturity level. In that sense, Proofup allows children to proactively speak up and seek the help that they need, and DAS will advise parents on the most convenient way to proceed to protect their child. This may result in contacting the school in order to activate their bullying protocol and the conflict mediation, or any other legal action if necessary. In that case legal expenses would be covered by the insurance.
DAS-Proofup and d-LAB teams have designed an 8-months pilot in order to test and validate the Proofup solution in schools. The pilot will begin in November 2018 and will last until May 2019. The target group of the project are children between 12 to 14 years old (1st-2nd 3rd ESO) from different socio-economic backgrounds.
The pilot is going to test the suitability and adequacy of Proofup’s solution by monitoring the experience of the users (children, parents and teachers), and through a series of indicators, quantitative and qualitative, in order to extract conclusions about the degree of effectiveness of the application by anticipating, stopping, avoiding scalability and managing a situation of possible harassment.
Part of this assessment will be developed and implemented by Eurecat, the Technological Centre of Catalonia, with one test that will evaluate the level of distress caused by cyberbullying on the students before and after the pilot, and one awareness test that will evaluate the level of understanding and consciousness of the students about the cyberbullying before and after the pilot.
Respecting children’s fundamental rights and encouraging them to speak up against violence is one of the main challenges when facing cyberbullying. Many parental control solutions exist thanks to the fear of Internet’s dark side. However, to draw the exact lines between children’s right to privacy and the secrecy of their communications and parents’ duty to protect their offspring is always difficult.
Digital natives feel more comfortable sharing through digital means, Proofup becomes a communication tool that makes reporting harassment and asking for help easier. The use of the app is agreed upon between children and parents, kids choose when to notify a possible situation of harassment, they select which proofs to share and whether to activate the geolocation function or not. By empowering kids instead of controlling them, Proofup provides a more conducive environment which we trust can significantly impact how many children choose to speak up.