Espoo schoolchildren given access to service to avoid online bullying and harassment

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In the upcoming school year, Espoo schools will employ new ways of intervening in bullying and harassment online.

Social media, various gaming platforms and messaging apps used by schoolchildren and students may sometimes cause trouble in their life. This is why the City of Espoo will start using the SomeBuddy app in autumn 2022, which provides low-threshold assistance with unpleasant situations online.

Photo: Max Fischer, Pexels
Photo: Max Fischer, Pexels

– We want to ensure that children and young people in Espoo can go through their school path safely and with a focus on learning, without having to worry about online harassment and coping with it. Even the teaching staff may not always know how to deal with online harassment or bullying, says Harri Rinta-aho, Director of Growth and Learning of the City of Espoo.

– With this service, we can offer tools to help children, young people and their guardians, but also the teaching staff, with handling bullying online with the pupils, Rinta-aho adds.

The service will be offered to pupils in grades 1–9, teaching staff and pupil welfare services.

– Over 30,000 pupils in Espoo will have access to a service where they can receive help with uncomfortable situations encountered online, such as bullying and harassment on social media, says Asko Lippo, Education Development Manager of the Finnish basic education unit of the City of Espoo.

– We consider it important that we can support our pupils even in situations that take place online, adds Outi Saloranta-Eriksson, chief of education from the unit for Swedish Education and Cultural Services of the City of Espoo.

Multiprofessional knowledge behind artificial intelligence

The SomeBuddy service is a Finnish innovation developed by the SomeBuddy company, which also makes use of artificial intelligence. However, children, young people and adults are always answered by real people on the service.

Intervening in bullying and harassment on social media may require various tools and instructions. Via SomeBuddy, pupils and staff of comprehensive schools in Espoo will be assisted by lawyers, social psychologists and a psychologist who are specialised in social media.

– According to the latest school health survey, bullying and sexual harassment experienced by children and young people have become increasingly common while the users of social media and games are increasingly younger. SomeBuddy helps ensure that pupils receive expert help and are not left alone to deal with these things, says Suvi Uski, founder of the SomeBuddy company and social media researcher.

According to Uski, people who have encountered harassment or bullying on social media have a high threshold for seeking help. The school health survey reveals that three in four underage persons have not told an adult about sexual harassment they have encountered online.

The SomeBuddy app can also help increase the competencies of the school adults to help pupils with difficult situations, which will ensure a safer school environment for everyone in the school community.

Schools in Espoo will start using the application next autumn

SomeBuddy started in 2017, and it has already assisted thousands of individuals aged 7–75 who have encountered harassment on social media.

SomeBuddy offers assistance via a web application which requires the user to have a school-specific code. The pupil will log into the service and describe their situation based on questions presented in the application. After this, the SomeBuddy experts will diagnose the situation and respond to the user via the application. The response includes an assessment of the situation and guidelines to resolve it.

The school-specific codes will be shared and lessons on social media harassment will be held in Espoo schools in the autumn.

Asko Lippo, Education Development Manager of the City of Espoo
Suvi Uski, CEO of SomeBuddy,

Read the press release on the city of Espoo’s webpage.