We all know how harmful bullying can be. Kids who are bullied are more likely to suffer from headaches, stomach aches, anxiety and depression, and both bullied kids and bullies are at greater risk of suicide. In an effort to combat bullying, the RCMP is bringing a new youth program to kids’ smartphones.
Coinciding with Bullying Awareness Week, the RCMP is officially launching BullyText, an anti-bullying texting game made for kids in grades six to eight.
Available in English and French, the game walks kids through various bullying scenarios they’d encounter in a typical day. Here’s how it works: kids text “BULLY” to 38383 to get the game started, and then select a character: Seb or Laura. They’re then given choices about what to do in various bullying scenarios, and their choices determine what happens next. Words in the texts in all caps are used as prompts—kids simply text these words back and they’ll get more details in their current scenario, or make a decision that moves things forward to a new scenario.
The game covers a variety of situations: a friend calling another kid gay, a group of kids plotting to exclude a classmate from a party, deciding whether to share an “ugly” photo of a classmate—the sorts of bullying kids encounter every day. Laura’s first test, for example, comes when a friend is judging a classmate while they’re changing for gym class—the kid playing has a choice between joining in with an “LOL” or shutting down the judging with “DISS.”
The scenarios are held together by a narrative thread, with characters reappearing throughout—a concept that has the potential to hold kids’ attention longer than a series of unrelated scenarios might. Kids also get prompts to “recap ur day so far,” which reviews poor choices but ends on a positive note by reinforcing any good choices or, at the very least, letting kids know they still have time to turn things around.
The game is “one more tool aimed at preventing youth from becoming victims or offenders,” says Louis Zuniga, manager of the RCMP’s National Youth Strategy. But what makes it especially relevant is that it got positive feedback from the RCMP’s Youth Advisory Committee, a group of 70 youth aged 13 to 17, and it features kid-friendly texting language—essential for the success of a program like this.