An important task of childhood is to develop socio-emotional skills so that we can effectively handle life challenges and thrive in both our learning and social environments. Socio-emotional development includes the ability to a) form and sustain positive relationships, b) experience, manage and express emotions, and c) engage effectively with our environments. A heightened level of socio-emotional skills has been found to reduce violence, bullying behaviours, and mental health problems in children and adolescents (Ragozzino & O’Brien, 2009). Additionally, students that have socio-emotional skills such as self-regulation are more able to focus on learning, and achieve academic success. When students are able to meet academic expectations they feel better about themselves and are more connected to school, which is a protective factor against antisocial behaviour. In the Community Zone of the EduApps, we have chosen to focus on bullying and mental health issues as bullying is the most frequent form of school violence and mental health has been identified as a major issue for children and youth according to the World Health Organization.
In order to support students with these difficulties and build their resiliency the community zone will contain apps that help develop students’ socio-emotional skills as emotional intelligence, self-regulation, problem solving, conflict management, communication skills, decision making, ethics, leadership, and empathic respectful relationships, as well as support their ability to deal with bullying and mental health difficulties. The apps in this area will complement each other and build upon the skills developed in each of the apps: a) Healthy emotions: Emotional Intelligence –self-awareness, self-management (self-regulation), social awareness, and relationship management; b) Healthy Relationships: Respect, diversity and conflict management and social situations such as bullying, harassment, leadership, accepting and appreciating diversity, and developing cultural competence; c) Healthy Me: Mental health and well-being – coping strategies for anxiety and depression, such as self-talk, breathing techniques, and positive re-framing. All of the apps will provide opportunities for both learning and practice; an important aspect for positive and long term change (Sukhodolsky & Scahill, 2012).
The Community Zone is in the process of developing a bullying awareness app that teaches elementary school students about the various types of bullying: physical, socio-emotional and cyber-bulling.
The app also helps students develop the skills necessary to identify these situations when they occur and to respond positively, instead of remaining a by-stander. The student creates a self-representative avatar and moves through various stories and ‘rooms’ where different bullying situations occur. As the avatar progresses through each room the situations they face become more complex, requiring greater use of skills such as problem solving, coping, communication, and self-regulation. The student is able to build their confidence in each room facing the more complex situations and what their reaction will be. This app is grounded in mental health, bullying, and education research, so the scenarios are realistic, relevant and relatable. Opportunities for children to practice and role play their responses to bullying situations is key for developing the confidence to face this social phenomenon.
The app has been created using the Unity game engine and is currently designed to run on any HTML5-enabled internet browser. The game reads Google Sheets, so the app will not require a programmer to make future, minor, changes. Choices can be written in the cells of the spreadsheet and edits can then be exported to a CSV file.