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There was a strange and unfamiliar emoji included in the iPhone to iOS 9.1 upgrade. It looks a little like a squashed CBS symbol, or maybe a speech bubble crossed with an eyeball. And it could contain the power to change some kids' lives—for the better.
The emoji is part of a powerful anti-bullying campaign, released through the Ad Council in partnership with Apple. It's called I Am a Witness and is the flip side of the Bully Project Mural, a 2014 collaboration between Adobe, the Bully Project and Behance. But whereas the Bully Project Mural encouraged kids and adults to share stories from their lives as the bullied (and bullies), I Am a Witness targets those who are witnesses to bullying. I Am a Witness wants bystanders to be part of the solution.
The campaign recognizes bullying happens both in person and online. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that almost 15 percent of students in the U.S. were bullied online in 2013. Cyberbullying is especially harmful to its victims, the CDC says, as it offers no means of escape from derisive comments which come at any and all times of the day or night.
A Pew Research Center study from 2011, Wired reports, found that 90 percent of teens from 12 to 17 years old have witnessed some form of online bullying—but they ignored the mean behavior when it happened on social media. Research shows that when peers intervene, it can cut bullying.
But how, teens wonder, can or should they intervene online? This is where the eyeball symbol comes in. Kids don't have to search for the right words when they see comments or posts that are bullying someone online. Instead, they can respond with the emoji. They can make their message even clearer with the hashtag #iamawitness.