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Howard County Launches App To Combat Cyberbullying

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HOWARD COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — Just a few weeks after state lawmakers pass a law against cyberbullying, one county is launching an app to report it.

Gigi Barnett explains how it works.

On Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, cyberbullying can breed on social media websites. Now, Howard County students can report it anonymously as quickly as it pops up.

County leaders are launching a new smart phone app that would track cyberbullying and protect the kids who tell.

“I’ve seen so many times where somebody will go to the teachers to report bullying and then all of a sudden, it’s like a witch hunt for whoever told the teacher,” said Gwynn Marsh-Armstrong, a River High School student.

“It is constant. It doesn’t go away and it is damaging,” said Christine McComas.

It’s the kind of app McComas wishes her daughter Grace had. On Easter last year, the 15-year-old committed suicide after online bullies targeted her. McComas says she made repeated attempts to stop the taunts. Nothing worked and the bully was never punished. She believes an app that allows teachers and students to report cyberbullying in real time could save lives.

“I’m actually very hopeful. We’ve spent the last year trying to raise awareness with our youth because of how digitally interconnected everyone is,” McComas said.

Makers of the app–a software company called Sprigeo–say it’s used in more than 500 schools across the country. They made it easy to report–just a one page form. The report is then sent to school leaders and possibly police.

“Eventually some of that information may get to the police department, if they think it raises to that issue where they think someone is in danger. But what we’re really talking about is changing the culture,” said Howard County Executive Ken Ulman.

The county will launch the app in the fall, just in time for the start of the school year. The app currently doesn’t have a name, so officials have sent a letter home to parents and students, asking for their ideas.

The app is part of a $250,000 social media program launched by Howard County.

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