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New technology helps children learn how to handle bullying

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MENASHA (WITI) -- Battling bullies is going high-tech. School districts throughout the state are using new computer software called “Act Now" -- designed to help kids in and out of the classroom.

The software allows kids to simulate all-too-real situations involving bullying.

"Usually it's just teasing, saying stuff like, about what you are wearing and stuff like that but you definitely still see it everyday," Maplewood Middle School student Christian Aguilar said.

This e-learning game-based curriculum called "Act Now" allows students to learn the best ways to react if they are confronted by a bully, or if they are witness to bullying in action.

"Act Now" was developed by Children's Hospital of Wisconsin is 2010.

"Students interact with games and videos and a variety of different tech to look at the role they play in bullying," Bridget Clementi with Children's Hospital said.

This month, the program expands from fourth to eighth grade students to include children in kindergarten through third grade.

"Those lessons are a little different though.  They really look social skills and what their role is as a bystander," Clementi said.

The internet-based program is used free of cost in more than 100 school districts across the state, including MPS.

"It's more engaging to them. That's their medium these days, so we need to use what they use to get the message across to them," Assistant State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor said.

Students at Maplewood Middle School in Menasha were among the first to try out the program.

"From the sixth grade to the eighth grade I've seen a lot of bullying go down since I started this program," Maplewood Middle School student Katelin Sell said.

Educators know it will take more than just computers and teachers to end the problem.

"When you see the stats, 170,000 students stay home nationally because they are being bullied.  That's a significant number.  We need to make sure we have safe environments in Wisconsin so students don't have to be afraid to come to school," Clementi said.

Children’s Hospital partnered with the Department of Public Instruction on the project.  That group is preparing to expand the program even further.  They’ll launch “Re-Think,” a resource for high school students later this school year.