New App Fights Cyberbullying

Apr 23, 2014

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One night, a middle-school girl named Amanda, was chatting with people on the Internet via webcam. After chatting for a while, one man  asked Amanda for a nude photo. For a year, she refused. But after a year without an internet filter or parental controls, she continued talking with him, gave into the pressure, took the photo, and sent it to him.

Amanda’s life then became a nightmare. The guy used the photo as blackmail for more provocative photos, saying that he would send the photo to friends and family and post it online for everyone to see. Later on, she found out that that photo had already been sent to everyone she knew.

Friends turned on her and she had no one to go to. She changed schools several times, only to have photos of her re-surface. Time spent researching how to block websites and others from spreading her pictures was all in vain. She spent more time alone while classmates started bullying her, online and offline. She turned to drugs and alcohol as her depression grew. She attempted to commit suicide. Yet, people continued bullying her, posted nasty comments and photos of her online and physically abused her.

In 2012, Amanda posted a video on Youtube as a plea for help, describing the bullying she encountered. A month later, Amanda committed suicide.

Over 31 percent of teens have faced cyberbullying, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited children. It can be impossible for those being bullied to get away from the bullying. It’s now on their phone, their laptop, their tablet…everywhere with internet access. Some of the challenges faced are that those being bullied are afraid to speak up and others do not take a stand against bullying.

Amanda’s experience, along with the experiences of thousands of other kids, prompted Todd Schobel to take action. One week after Amanda’s death, Schobel came up with the idea of creating a mobile application to help teens prevent and report cyberbullying.

The app, called STOPit, has features such as forwarding bullying messages to adults, connection to a crisis center in case of emergency, and the ability to report incidents anonymously. Individuals can download this app for personal reasons, or schools can download a version for the entire school, which gives each school a place that students can report bullying in the school.

Schools that used the STOPit app reported a decreasing amount or cyberbullying cases. These schools credit the app as helping deter the bullying.

Parents need to continue to be active and  vigilant in watching out for warning signs. By talking to teens and monitoring their activities, cyberbullying can be prevented. And as teens become more informed and are given more options to prevent cyberbullying, fewer teens while have to deal with the nightmare that cyberbullying brings to their lives.