Review our complete list of anonymous message response tips here. Also, you can view more specific tips and suggested responses by following these links:
Acknowledge Each Message. As soon as possible, acknowledge each message with a personal note back to the sender. Let them know someone has received their note and that you are there to help.
Short Replies Work Best. If you have ever had the pleasure of reading a series of text messages between two adolescents, you will quickly learn that they don't use long sentences. Their conversations are short bursts of just a few words, enough to start a dialogue and move on. Using long sentences in a CyberBully Hotline reply would therefore not be advised. In addition, most text carrier networks only allow for 140 characters per text transmission. Anything over that and the message may be clipped with the balance sent as a second or third message. To make things easier to read and follow, keep your reply brief.
One-Two Questions Per Reply. Keeping with the above theme, do not ask more than one or two questions per reply. Instead of going for who, what, where, when, how, and why all in one reply, break them up into a series of questions. This will be less threatening to a student wary of reporting and more consistent with how they communicate themselves. The Sender ID stays consistent with each unique sender, assuming they message from the same phone.
Don't Ask for a Meeting Immediately. If a student is using the hotline they are struggling with coming forward with their problems or with information they may have. Build a relationship with the reporting student and let them know that their identity and information will be kept confidential. Build trust. It may take several communications before a student is ready to come in and talk face to face. They will likely do it on their time frame and not yours, so you may need to be flexible with meeting times and places to maintain their anonymity and ease their concerns. The fear of retaliation and damage to their reputation looms large in their minds, so for them to be seen in the principal's or a counselor's office could hurt more than it helps.
Testing the Waters. Some students may not immediately state what is troubling them. They may start with something as simple as "Hello." They may be testing how quickly, or if, someone responds. If you receive a "hello" or "hi" message, a simple reply such as "hello, how are you today?" will suffice. From there, they may open up, or they may say, "fine" or "OK" or something like that. From that point, it would be appropriate to probe a little..."Glad to hear you are OK. Is there something I can help you with?"
HRU? K! Say What? Kids text and chat in a language all their own. You may receive messages that are filled with text slang or short hand. Here is a great free resource if you are struggling with deciphering a text message: http://www.netlingo.com/acronyms.php
Don't Try to Sound Like a Kid. As noted above, kids have their own texting language. We do not advise that you try to match their language with your reply. They need to know they have reached an adult and a person of authority. If you sound like a kid, they may get skittish and stop using their dialogue.
Who is Authorized to Receive Messages? The CyberBully Hotline system allows multiple parties to receive and monitor messages from a single hotline number. In a district setting, this would allow you to have one or more people at each school (example, a Principal and Counselor) monitoring for messages and potentially someone at the district office (example, Assistant Superintendent or Bully Prevention Coordinator) monitoring all hotlines in use by the district. The system further allows for distinct review privileges by user, for example some users could be "review only" while others have "review & reply" credentials. One user is typically the system administrator who can create and delete users and assign privileges. Ultimately, who receives and responds to the messages is up to you, but we recommend that only one person have reply capabilities for the school and district level to avoid over-response and confusion.
How are Messages Received? Each user has the ability to customize how they receive messages. All messages are received centrally by the CyberBully Hotline system and can then be copied to a mobile device and/or an email account. So you can get a copy of the message on your cell phone and in your email account if desired, but replies to messages can only originate from within the CyberBully Hotline interface.