Dubai: A 13-year-old Indian girl in Dubai is set to launch an app to allow victims of bullying seek help anonymously.
Ishita Karuturi, a Year 8 student at a Dubai school, is behind the ‘Dunk-A-Bully’ app that will soon connect students with their school counsellors while staying incognito. Dunk-A-Bully is already raising awareness against bullying through its Twitter and Instagram pages, with all posts created and designed by Ishita. The news comes as the UAE is holding its fourth annual National Bullying Prevention Week till Saturday.
The rise in time spent at home because of distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic has made children more vulnerable to online bullying, which can be easier for the bully to get away with because of digital anonymity tools, officials and experts have warned. Almost half of the students (46 per cent) were “dreading” coming back to school because of physical bullying after the lockdowns started being lifted, according to information cited by Dunk-A-Bully.
‘Don’t be scared’
Speaking to someone after being bullied is critical for emotional and mental health, but students often shy away from seeking help because of another fear — the fear of being labelled a “tattletale”, someone who snitches on another’s wrongdoing, Ishita said.
“Dunk-A-Bully will enable schools to tackle bullying by providing students with the tools to gain confidence to talk about their problems surrounding bullying. When you get bullied, there is a lot of harm done, but what people don’t know is that if you keep the [trauma of] bullying [buried] inside you and you don’t speak to anyone about it, it can lead to depression, anxiety and it can have an impact on your future and your academic achievement. Before it gets too serious, students should talk to someone. Dunk-A-Bully allows them to do that anonymously without being scared, because usually students are scared to be labelled a tattletale,” Ishita explained.
Beyond offering tips on overcoming bullying, the app will allow a victim to message or chat with the school counsellor anonymously, after answering some brief questions so they can be directed to the right counsellor. After messaging, if they feel comfortable, they can go and meet the counsellors. In the future, the app could be expanded to cover other individuals, such as adults and external counsellors, as well as wider mental health issues, Ishita said.
In February, Ishita’s idea won her the ‘Young City Makers Championship’ title — a new championship that Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council, had launched with the aim of engaging the youth to improve government services in Dubai and suggest future ones. Ishita used her cash prize of Dh10,000 to enlist the services of developers to build the app and she made it her summer project. She wants to pilot the app, which is “basically 90 per cent done”, at her school first before taking it out to other schools.
Before starting the Dunk-A-Bully project, Ishita had delivered a TEDx talk at her school “on the impact of sitting on your emotions and not speaking to anyone about it”. Apart from devoting her time to Dunk-A-Bully, Ishita likes drama, reading, writing, video editing and computer science.