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The Bully Button: New Tool Is Either World's Greatest Anti-Bully Weapon or Terrifying Fascist Plot

A new app could make your smart phone the best protector you ever had -- but is that a good thing?

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Coloroso also laments that most anti-bullying programs rely on authority figures -- teachers, administrators, counselors -- whose judgments are swayed by social status, religion, bias and politics.

"There has been a great failure on the part of us all, including kids, to discern the difference between normal, natural conflict and bullying. Natural conflict is a necessary part of living with neighbors, families and peers. But bullying has nothing to do with natural conflict. It doesn't even resemble conflict. It's about contempt for another human being. It's about making that human being into a cockroach. It's a short walk from there to genocide."

But because most anti-bullying programs use conflict-resolution methods rather than address contempt, they're useless or worse.

"Say a target tells her teacher that another girl has been bullying her. This teacher sits the kids down together, the bully and the target, and says, 'Come on. Let's be nice.' The target says her piece. Then the bully -- who, like many bullies, has high social status and is liked by adults -- says sweetly, 'I'm soooo soooorry. I had noooo ideeeea that I hurt your feelings. I had noooo ideeea that those nasty words got written on your locker or that you were locked out of that chatroom. What? I didn't trip you that day in class. You just fell over my foot.'

"The teacher tells the target, 'See? She's sorry! Now you can be friends!' If the target doesn't want to be friends, the teacher blames the target for being uncooperative. That's what conflict resolution amounts to," Coloroso says. "When a teacher sits two kids down, who's going to win? The best storyteller."

That's where the Bully Button comes in.

One touch sends the recorded event as an email.

"If it isn't opened, it goes on re-emailing the authorities again and again. It won't go unaddressed," says's Murphy. "It will relentlessly keep trying to get someone to respond to it.

"This creates a system of complete accountability where the principal and the parents will be asked to log in, so that the incident will change from being an open incident to an addressed incident."

The Bully Button, which Murphy hopes schools will adopt, is a capable 21st-century tool -- and a powerful weapon with shades of the Cold War. Making documentation an ever-present threat, the app begets a mutually assured destruction atmosphere.

"Say every kid has an iPhone with the Bully Button. After a while, you don't even know whether I have you on camera or audio. I might not. But I might. Do you really want to take that chance?

"When the Bully Button is an active system in enough people's hands, then it becomes like red-light cameras," explains Murphy, who was bullied in childhood because of his epilepsy. "Fewer and fewer people run red lights these days, because they're not sure which lights are equipped with surveillance cameras. Hopefully we'll reach that state with this app -- so when a bully thinks, 'I'm not sure whether this kid is documenting what I'm about to do,' he doesn't do it.

"We live in a society where we need to be comfortable with the fact that there are probably electronic eyes on us at all times. Like it or not, today's kids are the documented generation. With that fact come certain responsibilities. We're empowering this generation with the tools to record misdeeds.

"That's life with technology. That's life as we've created it."

Anneli Rufus is the author of several books, most recently The Scavenger's Manifesto (Tarcher Press, 2009). Read more of Anneli's writings on scavenging at

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