Saturday, October 25, 2014

Coming Together to Combat Bullying: Q&A with Senator Mark Kirk

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We believe mobile technology can change the world. That’s why our Motorola Mobility Foundation created the Apps4Good program, where employee volunteers partner with nonprofit and civic organizations to create mobile apps that improve lives and communities.

Apps4Good projects have spanned a wide range. We developed, for instance, an app for the Chicago Bar Foundation that increases access to justice by providing information about free or low-cost legal resources. The Foundation also teamed up with the Chicago Shakespeare Theater on an interesting cultural experiment. They created an app that led audience members through various places in Chicago as part of an interactive and mobile performance experience.

The most recent project is a partnership with U.S. Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois and his Student Leadership Advisory Board to raise awareness of cyberbullying. Too many children suffer from cyberbullying without the tools and resources to respond to it. Motorola employees, student leaders, and anti-bullying experts from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) worked together to develop a mobile game called Back Off, Bullies. The app uses a series of questions and animations to help kids understand the dangers and impact of cyberbullying.

We sat down with Senator Kirk to hear first-hand about the initiative and his student advisory board’s efforts against cyberbullying.

Q: What is the Student Leadership Advisory Board?
Each year, I ask the junior class presidents from a region of Illinois to become active members of the Student Leadership Advisory Board (SLAB) to help me better understand the unique issues that students face in Illinois. This particular SLAB is made up of nearly 30 junior class presidents from high schools in Lake, McHenry, and Northern Cook counties. I hope that by participating in SLAB, these young students develop a passion for civic engagement and recognize their potential to effect change as future leaders and contributors to society.

Q: Why did you and the students decide to dedicate your time to the issue of cyberbullying?
I ask each advisory board to choose a topic they’re passionate about and want to spend the year working on. The students voted to address cyberbullying because it is a pervasive issue within their schools and for their peers. It’s an issue I’m also working hard in Congress to combat because every child deserves a safe environment, free of harassment, in which they can learn.

Q: Why did you want to develop a mobile app to tackle this issue?
We wanted to make the biggest impact, so it was important for us to address this issue in the environment where kids are most likely to engage. Since students are increasingly relying on mobile devices for school and play, it made the most sense to develop a fun and captivating app to get them interested in the topic.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish with this initiative?
Nearly half of the kids in Illinois have been bullied online. That’s unacceptable. By educating elementary school kids about cyberbullying before they experience or perpetuate it, we hope to prevent bullying before it starts.

Posted by Stephanie Anthony, Team4Good, & Andria Winters, Public Policy and Team4Good

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