For parents and teachers, finding an entry point into a discussion about bullying is challenging to say the least. Making it fun might seem nearly impossible. Bullying is an uncomfortable topic for everyone, and often children are reluctant to discuss their bullying experiences with adults. Yet everyone agrees that bullying must be addressed: parents, teachers, students, and administrators need to have a dialogue in order to find peaceful solutions to the bullying epidemic.
That’s where Awesome Upstander!, a new iPad app from HealthTeacher, comes in. The goal of Awesome Upstander! is to encourage young people to take action when they witness bullying incidents, so that instead of remaining passive bystanders, they take a stand, becoming “upstanders.” For teachers and parents, Awesome Upstander! can be a valuable educational tool. It can be used as an “ice breaker” to help put children at ease when discussing this difficult and sometimes painful topic.
Rather than lecturing players about bullying, which would cause kids to tune out, the app creators have invented a fun game that gets more involving as the player advances. The game allows players to choose their avatar (a girl or a boy) and their setting (a bathroom or a cafeteria, scenes where bullying often takes place.) Players are presented with a challenge at each level: to collect a certain number of friends and a “must-have” object that would help them stand up to bullies. The player moves the avatar over obstacles, such as a vending machine, with arrows and can make them jump with taps and double taps. The friends to be collected stand at different levels, and it can be a challenge to reach them all in the allotted time.
These friends collected are buddies who in a real world context would together take a stand against bullying by providing support to victims of bullying, including them in their fun activities, and intervening in a bullying incident on their behalf as long as it is safe to do so. The idea is that there is safety in numbers. It’s easier to speak up as a group, and the bully is less likely to intimidate when faced with a group. A child surrounding herself with friends is also less likely to be a victim of bullying.
On the face of it, Awesome Upstander! might look like just another video game, but the message it imparts is too important to ignore. Health Teacher provides educators and parents with useful companion materials for the app on its website. Awesome Upstander! is a great way to get a conversation about bullying started with kids and help them feel empowered in the process.
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