Bullying is bad, but at least children can escape it when they are safe at home. With cyberbullying, not so much.
“Bullying no longer ends when the child goes home from school. It follows them home because it’s social media,” explains Allison Mook, Vice President of Client Services for a new Tampa-based service, BulliPatrol
The company is trying to address the cyberbullying problem by raising parental awareness of their children's online activity. Its goal is to reach the most vulnerable with the message that they are not alone and can get help.
“Bullying now is different,” asserts Andrew Grubbs, Founder and President, a programmer who came up with the idea. “It’s always a threat. That’s where we need to accept that the genie is out of the bottle. Social media is here to stay. Kids are going to use it.”
The service works by analyzing phrases in online messages. “Once the child starts receiving messages that are negative, the parent receives an alert,” explains Mook, who is handling marketing.
The service, which costs $5.99 a month, has launched in Tampa Bay, with plans to expand nationally. It already is generating a fair amount of interest in the TV media locally and in North Carolina and Indiana.
It’s hard to say exactly what BulliPatrol’s staffing needs will be just yet. But Grubbs expects hires to be in Tampa Bay.
“We aren't hiring currently, but have identified our personnel needs and will be able to fill them as we gain momentum,” Mook adds.
In the meantime, they are reaching out to moms, mom and dad blogs and websites, schools, libraries and churches, even the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay
. “We feel like this is something we can actually make an impact with on a national level,” she says.
What’s next? “We’re always looking at how do we help the kids escape from the problem they’re experiencing,” Grubbs says.