Vantaa schoolchildren to receive an innovative service attacking social media bullying
Vantaa schools have reacted to online bullying and harassment faced by children. Social media, various game platforms and communications apps used by schoolchildren present problems in schoolchildren’s everyday lives. The City of Vantaa has now taken steps to secure 3rd - 9th-graders’ everyday school life and to ensure that low-threshold help will be available to them.
– “Nineteen thousand Vantaa schoolchildren will get the SomeBuddy service that will help them in case of bullying and harassment,” says Johanna Honkanen, district manager at Vantaa Basic Education.
The SomeBuddy service (Someturva) is an innovation, created in Finland, which also utilizes artificial intelligence. In the service, however, real people answer the questions posed by children, teens, and adults. Social media bullying and harassment takes many forms, and different situations demand different measures to be taken. In the SomeBuddy service, lawyers, social psychologists and a psychologist will help Vantaa residents using the service.
– “Bullying as well as sexual harassment faced by children and teens have become more general, when younger and younger age groups are using social media and playing games. The SomeBuddy service helps us ensure that even the youngest schoolchildren dare and know how to ask for help,” explains Suvi Uski, SomeBuddy CEO and social media researcher.
According to Uski, people subjected to social media harassment or bullying have a high threshold for asking for help. According to the school health survey—published already in 2019—three out of four children do not tell their parents that they have been sexually harassed online.
– “Parents usually believe that their children will tell them, if something bad happens. We have, nevertheless, noticed that the majority of children subjected to severe crimes do not tell their parents about the matter. With the help of the SomeBuddy service, we can encourage these children to tell about their situation also at home,” Uski says.
The SomeBuddy service will be adopted at Vantaa schools at the beginning of the school year, and it aims to increase the schoolchildren's sense of security, as well as to provide professional educators with efficient tools. SomeBuddy was successfully piloted in six Vantaa schools in spring 2021.