Roll-out . Pete Hayes, regional director of tootoot, said the project is being piloted at 4 Dubai schools Image Credit: Supplied photo

Dubai Students in the UAE can now anonymously report incidents of bullying on a unique platform which is available around the clock.

An anti-bullying app, tootoot is currently being piloted at four Dubai schools - Jumeirah English Speaking School, Arabian Ranches, GEMS Wellington International School, Sunmarke School and Victory Heights Primary School, Pete Hayes, Middle East director of the UK-based platform said.

He said, “As of now, 2,383 students and 197 school staff have access to tootoot. Over 50 students have used the app in the short time since our recent launch.”

Michael Brennen, tootoot’s managing director, said, “Bullying is still an issue in many schools across the UAE. The largest barrier I faced when experiencing bullying as a child was speaking to someone about my situation. I’m thrilled that tootoot UAE will provide a voice for pupils, helping them to resolve their concerns quickly and easily.”

Hayes quoted Abu Dhabi Education Council figures which showed 60 per cent of teenage boys as victims of bullying at some point of time. But only one in 10 actually tells someone about the issue. tootoot solves this problem by giving pupils a safe and easy way to take the first step towards resolving their concerns.

Starting young

Hayes said a recent survey conducted in the region has stated children as young as four are being bullied and more needs to be done to teach young people empathy and anger management. At least 40-60 per cent of children are bullied at some point during school.

tootoot believes “pre-bullying” or behaviour that might lead to bullying is a big problem and preventive measures at an early age could stop it worsening in later years. “We see bullying and pre-bullying in many countries, but Dubai is now coming to realise there is a very high rate of such cases. There are a lot of newcomers coming to schools and bullies pick on someone who is different.”

Ages three to seven are formative, so if children are bullied during these years, they can suffer from problems such as anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts later in life, he said, highlighting the importance of tackling the issue early on.

“Schools have to notice if a child is a bully and keep them busy and give them responsibility and parents needed to watch for behavioural changes that bullied children show, such as a reluctance to go to school, anxiety about separation from parents, low self-confidence and self-esteem, and a drop in appetite. Bullying could easily escalate into violence or threats of violence if it is not checked. Teasing can become taunting, nicknaming can become name-calling, laughing with someone can become laughing at someone and bossing can become coercion and threatening,” he added.