Good Digital Parenting
Blog | Sept. 29, 2014

Fight Cyberbullying with Dialogue and Technology

Co-Founder, Cornerstone Reputation

With the uptick in student technology use comes the inevitable uptick in students harassing others online. Technology makes everything convenient, especially bullying as it also removes the human element of meanness and can offer a protective disconnected feeling for the bully. Experts at Cornerstone Reputation believe that redirection is a strong method for ending online bullying. Instead of dwelling on fear-mongering and a lot of don'ts, we have seen amazing results when we teach teens what positive things they can be doing online (in lieu of persecuting others) that quite frankly are just a lot more fun, creative, and allow them to show the world something cool they have crafted in a hip online forum. We make taunting others boring by exposing the amazingly impressive things teens could be doing online instead.

Cornerstone is a proponent of dialogue to tackle the issue of online cruelty but sometimes you have to fight fire with fire. In this case, fight destructive technology use with technology. Here’s a quick look at two new apps designed to curb online bullying:

STOPit

The first is an app called STOPit, created by Tom Schobel.  Schobel explains his motivation behind the app's creation:  “Not long ago I heard a radio interview about a young girl who was viciously bullied, primarily through social media posts. She committed suicide. As I listened, my heart stopped beating for what felt like an eternity. I couldn’t breathe. Tears flowed, and my life has never been the same. This should never happen to children, and I had to help. The idea for STOPit was born.[1]”  The (paid) app is downloadable for smart phones, and makes it easy to report incidents to trusted adults, and it provides easy access to resources and support for teens who witness or experience online bullying. 

  • Best feature: This is one that we at Cornerstone Reputation are excited to see: the app’s FRIENDit button encourages users to be “Anonymous Upstanders,” a button that “helps children become “upstanders,” rather than bystanders, by helping innocent cyberbullying victims.” We love this because it acknowledges one key to an effective solution: the best way to get teens to stop cyberbullying is to hear it from their peers. We believe that it will take a significant cultural shift to eliminate online bullying, and so far prevention and blocked sites don’t seem to be effective. Educating and inspiring teens to start an “upstanding” movement is a step in the right direction. 
  • Free: No
  • Potential downside: The app is geared toward schools, and the danger here is that school administrators may rely solely on this app cyberbullying prevention.  While tools like this are certainly helpful, it will take a hands-on educational approach – beyond what’s available through electronic means - to truly address the root causes of bullying.

KnowBullying

The second tool is a free downloadable app called KnowBullying. Developed by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association) it claims to”put the power to prevent bullying in your hand.[2]” This app is designed for parents and caretakers, and offers them advice, suggestions, and guidance for communicating with children about online bullying. It encourages parents to check in regularly with their children and offers pointers to get the conversation started.

  • Best feature: Between the conversation starters, tips, the bullying warning signs, and the check-in reminders, it is hard to choose just one best feature; these are all components to sparking healthy and open communication, which is the real challenge when it comes to talking to teens about problems they have online. If we have to choose one feature, though, we vote for the Educators Section. Teachers and administrators can download the app even if their school doesn’t have an official prevention program in place. The Educators feature offers resources to prevent bullying in the classroom and offers support for children who experience bullying.
  • Price: free
  • Potential downside: Like any app, it lacks the human touch that is needed when it comes to teaching empathy, kindness, and responsibility online. However, if used in conjunction with the human element, it’s hard to find a downside here.
  • Ultimately, it’s encouraging to see that more tools are becoming available for parents and schools. It is exciting to be a part of this movement to teach teens how to interact online in ways that are powerful, positive, and healthy. Our hope, however, is that parents and schools do not rely solely on technology to help their children with technology.  Guidance from experienced experts, education, digital skills, and open communication with parents are essential to this growing shift towards a positive online culture and away from one that looks the other way when bullies appear, and it’s going to take more than an app to do all that. 

Interested in finding out about Cornerstone Reputation's Student Presentations? Look us up at www.cornerstonereputation.com

Photo image courtesy of Flickr