Almost 15 percent of students in grades nine to 12 have experienced cyberbullying, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. Those kids who have experienced cyberbullying are more than twice as likely to consider suicide, according to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying and emergency related issues in regard to substance abuse and suicide are critical concerns for all educators because of these statistics. According to Haddonfield Schools Superintendent Richard Perry, there are several new laws involving HIB issues along with legislation and mandates for training of school staff to deal with other student crisis issues as well.
Because of this, on Thursday, Sept. 11 Haddonfield high school held a presentation for its students about the newest app that has been integrated into their school called the STOPit app. The STOPit app is a tool available for smart phones that allows children who have been exposed to cyberbullying, whether as a victim or bystander, to anonymously and securely take immediate action. This enables them to seek help by efficiently informing trusted adults and school officials to stop the devastating effects of vicious cyber predation before it is too late.
“We investigated several programs in order to create a system for students to reach out to school staff in an anonymous manner so that intervention could occur for student crisis incidents. Tip-lines were investigated first. However, we wanted something more based on how students communicate,” Perry said.
Perry learned about the STOPit app through representatives of the app and found that it fit the bill. On the STOPit website the STOPit app is described as an affordable, anti-bullying security solution, offering protection for kids and peace of mind for parents. The STOPit team believes that the key to dealing with cyberbullying is empowerment. Putting innovative tools in the hands of tech-savvy teens allows them to take protective and preventative measures against cyberbullies.
“Over the past several years we have seen an increase in students experiencing crisis and cyberbullying. We work to incorporate supports for our students in order to better help them during these difficult situations. The fact that it is an app made this very appealing because it is the way our students communicate — it is very much on their level of use and understanding,” said Chuck Klaus, principal of the Haddonfield High School.
“We are very excited about the possibilities of this program providing a means for students to reach out anonymously to trusted adults in a Digital Age for Digital Students and thus create a supportive bridge, via technology, for us to help,” said Perry.
From the STOPit press release, STOPit takes a four-pronged approach to putting a halt to cyberbullying using various fully customizable features for each individual child:
- The STOPit button: “Stand Tall, Tell All” empowers users to capture offensive material and send to pre-selected trusted adults, including school officials.
- The HELPit button: “A Shoulder to Lean On” provides a gateway for children to seek help and advice around the clock, including talk and text options with a national crisis support network.
- The FRIENDit button: “Always Anonymous Upstander” provides witnesses of cyberbullying to capture offensive material and anonymously send to pre-selected trusted adults, including school officials.
- The REPORTit button: “Secure Protection” enables children to document and report evidence when cyber predation escalates to a dangerous level. When cyber predators target a child, the threatening evidence can be sent to trusted adults or law enforcement officials.
The creator of STOPit is Todd Schobel. After hearing about a young girl who committed suicide due to cyberbullying, Schobel got the idea and worked to create the STOPit app. After seeing nothing like it, he dove into working on the STOPit app, taking approximately a year and more than 10,000 hours to make.
“My hope is simply to make the world a better place… one child at a time,” Schobel said.
The program is now in more than 10 schools with more than 25 more starting with the STOPit app this year.
“Cyber abuse is a global plague that must be reduced to a disease. Unfortunately bullying will never fully go away,” Schobel said.
For parents or students who aren’t sure what cyberbullying is or what it pertains to, Detective Sgt. Tom Rich, a spokesperson for the STOPit app, described cyberbullying in his own terms.
“Cyberbullying or “cyber- abuse” to me is when someone uses any form of technology as a weapon to harm another. This weapon may be used to ridicule, threaten, humiliate or just flat out make someone feel horrible about who they are as a person. It can be based on any type of factors: race, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity or anything about the person that may make them different. It comes in several different forms, but mostly we see cyberbullying rears its ugly head on the anonymous apps or websites,” said Rich.
Cyberbullying can affect anyone. However, it is not always reported. According to Rich, approximately 160,000 students stay home from school every day for fear of bullying. Ninety percent of teens who have seen social media bullying say they have ignored it, but 84 percent of those teens have seen others tell cyber bullies to stop and 24 percent of those teens stated they don’t know what to do if bullied.
To know if someone is being bullied, Rich said there are “red flags.”
“The usual red flags are someone being jumpy when their phone alert goes off; if a person has pulled away from favorite activities or app/websites that they usually frequent; or there is a drop in grades or unexplainable lack of interest in school, hobbies and friends,” Rich said.
“These tend to be major signs that cyberbullying has become overwhelming and hard to deal with on a daily basis.”
If you know someone who is a victim of cyberbullying, or you yourself are a victim, be sure to report it.
The STOPit app is just one way to get help.
To learn more about how the STOPit app can put an end to cyberbullying, please visit StopItCyberBully.com.