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Central Japan prefecture develops app for school kids to report online bullying, abuse

A smartphone with the "Netmie-ru" app opened is seen at the Mie Prefectural Government building on June 23, 2020. (Mainichi/Koichi Tanaka)

TSU -- In an attempt to stop online bullying among children and other internet-based issues, the Mie Prefectural Board of Education has developed an app that kids and their guardians can use to write in about any inappropriate messages they receive.

The app is called "Net Mie-ru," a pun on the name of the central Japanese prefecture, and the verb "mieru," meaning to be visible. According to the board, it already entrusts specialists to do "net patrols" in which they search specific keywords such as school names to find any wrongdoing. But because free messaging apps such as Line involve conversations that are difficult for unintended recipients to pick out, the government also developed the app to work alongside the patrols.

In the event that someone sees a text or post that is bullying or abusive, or makes reference to suicide, or involves some other negative acts, users can screenshot the writing in question and submit it through the app. If the person sending the information doesn't wish to identify themselves or provide any other personal details, they don't have to, and victims of abusive messages can also take their concerns to local consultation centers in the prefecture.

The prefectural Board of Education's student discipline division will confirm the information they've received every weekday morning, and by working together with schools, municipal boards of education, police and other bodies, they will look to discipline and provide psychological care to relevant individuals, and have the messages deleted, among other responses.

The app is being promoted for download on the prefectural government's website and at all of the schools in the prefecture. The total cost to develop, manage and run the app is reportedly around 8 million yen.

(Japanese original by Koichi Tanaka, Tsu Bureau)

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