It’s Okay to Tip! Teaching Students about Anonymous Reporting

Encourage students to make an anonymous tip about any problem.When we talk about the CyberBully Hotline, one thing we often tell school leaders is that they can’t address the problems they don’t know about. To us, this is more than just a cleverly-worded statement. We believe that school leaders must keep this idea in mind when installing any anonymous reporting program in their school or district.

While anonymous reporting programs can help schools address bullying, violence, and other tough issues, they work only if students buy in to the program. Students must believe that it is okay to tip before they will feel comfortable providing you with insight into their problems.

How do you encourage students to make reports? Here are five suggestions:

  • Ask students to tip—often! Let’s face it: attention spans can be short, and life moves fast. Without regular reminders about the program, students may forget about it. Periodically remind your students about your anonymous reporting program, and do so in every manner that you can—through morning and afternoon announcements, the student newspaper, teachers mentioning the program in class, and so on. You may also want to invite your students to tell you how they want to be reminded! Soliciting promotional ideas from students, and even having them come up with their own promotions, can help encourage participation and engagement with the program.
  • Communicate all the details. Some kids may doubt that reports are truly anonymous, or hesitate to provide tips out of fear that their peers will somehow find out. To overcome this resistance, give your students all the details about your program. Explain who sees the reports, how the information will be used to address problems, and what systems are in place to keep identities anonymous and information confidential. Also, candidly answer any questions about the program that may arise. Showing students that your program is well-constructed, thorough, and well-managed will help build confidence and trust.
  • Help them envision the consequences—good and bad. Peer pressure can work against a young person who wants to make an anonymous report. Fear of being perceived as a “snitch” or a “tattletale” will keep many from reporting. Students may also fail to report because they feel silly or awkward. For example, a student may be hesitant to make a report on a classmate who said they were “just joking” about blowing up the school; they may fear that administrators will be annoyed or see such a report as a waste of time. Tell students that making an anonymous report can help relieve their problems, while failing to report might make their problems worse or hurt others.
  • Remind them that you’re never too busy to help. Students may not have the self-esteem to believe that their problems are worth anyone’s time, or they may feel guilty about asking school leaders to make time for their concerns. Remind students that you will address all reports and tell students that you treat every report as important.
  • Encourage them to trust their feelings. A student may feel uncomfortable about the behavior of a peer or a school official but decide their concerns aren’t big enough or bad enough to report. For instance, a student may feel disturbed by a violent drawing that a socially-awkward classmate has created, but after seeing the drawing, they might deal with the discomfort by telling themselves that the student probably isn’t a threat. Alternatively, a student may receive an unwanted social advance from a classmate or school official, but then afterwards tell themselves that their reaction was somehow wrong. Tell students that if they are feeling weird, uncomfortable, or concerned about something, they should make a report. Remind students that it’s better to be safe than sorry, and invite them to make tips on all situations where they feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

Do you have ideas on how to encourage students to provide tips? We’d love to see your suggestions in the comments!

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