How to Discuss Digital Citizenship with Your Child: Their Rights, Responsibilities and How to Stay Safe in the Cybersphere

By Melissa Straub
Founder, High Impact Youth Training Solutions
and Without A Trace Investigations

In my years consulting with schools and investigating social media, cybercrime and cyberbullying issues, I’ve become all too familiar with the endless number of virtual landmines that our kids encounter every day on their cell phones and computers.

Thankfully, the challenge can be managed. But it requires a healthy dose of attention and accountability by the adult role models in our kids’ lives, both in the classroom and at home.

The online risks our kids face today begin in the earliest school years and evolve with each passing grade.

As we enter the holiday gift-giving season, many parents and guardians are likely considering the pros and cons of giving the children in their care and more access to the cybersphere. Below, I share a few important considerations about youth social-emotional development relative to internet use and social media, and some proven tips for effectively communicating both the risks of engaging online and ways we can work with our kids to keep them safer in the digital neighborhood.

The Early Years (K-5)

Kids are learning to use computers and now being exposed to digital content in the classroom as early as kindergarten. A digital shadow begins taking shape the very first time they sign into an account and begin to explore the Internet. Children in this age group should be introduced to the basic concepts of digital citizenship, Internet Safety, and what to do should they be contacted by a stranger or exposed to something that makes them uncomfortable.

Middle School

Most of the worst mistakes related to social networking are made in grades 6, 7, and 8. During this time of adolescence, young people are having fun and embracing the gift of technology, but all to frequently don’t make the best decisions in real life. These decisions often follow them into the online world. The mission at this level should be to educate kids on the issues around the permanence of information — things they share online don’t necessarily disappear when you click the delete button — and to encourage them to be the same person online as they are in the real world. Another key is teaching them about empathy and their ability to make a positive change in others’ lives by reporting cyberbullying and bullying in general.

High School

As students get ready to pursue jobs, apply to colleges, or join the military, it is an important time for parents and educators to continue pressing the importance of responsible social networking. An emphasis should be placed on making teens aware that careless social media behavior can carry serious consequences — one picture, video or comment can hurt their reputations and haunt them for years to come. Continue to talk to them about being the change their peers need and to be respectful of others online.

Tips for Teachers and Counselors

Regardless of the age, there are steps schools can take right now to ensure their students’ safety and happiness. For starters, counselors and teachers should talk about the issues in a forthright way and provide them the tools that truly empower them to “say something if they see something” — especially when it comes to their mental health. Schools should also dedicate as many resources as they can toward effectively training school personnel to identify signs of trouble among their students. In addition, counselors and educators can:

  • Teach students self-regulation, resilience and etiquette in their online communications.
  • Create lesson plans on social media usage, character education and diversity. Start early.
  • Make students aware that what they’re seeing is tailored, and often manipulated, by the person posting it – especially with celebrity feeds — so you only see what they want you to.
  • Realize social media is the platform, not the problem; the problem is in how we use it. Rather than focusing on the very latest app, recognize that, regardless of the medium, young people are facing challenges we know about and are well versed in: social pressures, making good choices, and creating healthy boundaries.

Tips for Parents

As early as pre-K, parents should encourage their children to report problems they see online and in real life while strengthening their relationships with school officials. Kids struggle with the thought of “ratting” someone out and don’t want to get caught up in others’ problems by stepping forward to report them. They need to feel assured that they can share information without repercussions and that the person who is taking those reports is listening and cares.

Parents can and should:

  • Develop a plan around social media regulation – i.e., setting time limits, putting it down at dinner table, turn-off time before bed.
  • Work with kids on developing a healthy, balanced view of what social media is and what can happen relatable to the real world.
  • Share your own stories of times when social media made you feel left out and how you coped with it. Also, talk about other kids who may feel hurt for not being included and teach your kids to understand their feelings.
  • Model the social media usage and behavior that you expect of your kids.

And a final tip for both parents and educators: Let kids know there’s no better day than today to clean up their social media accounts and commit to making better decisions about what they post from now on.

Melissa Straub is the founder of High Impact Youth Training Solutions, LLC, a specialized consulting company that provides educational training and guidance on issues directly affecting our youth, schools, and communities. She is also the founder and lead investigator for Without A Trace Investigations, LLC, which specializes in social media-related investigations, including cybercrime, cyberbullying, sexting, and other social networking issues.

To speak with an expert on anonymous reporting solutions to help youth report instances of cyberbullying, cyberstalking, and other abusive and potentially harmful behaviors online or IRL (In Real Life), call STOPit Solutions today.

10 Reasons Why You Should Support WeTip, the Crime Stopping, Anonymous Tip Service This Holiday Season

The holiday season is an emotional time for many of us, with to-do lists a mile long, and a cascade of different calls to action: Have a happy holiday! Give them them the gifts they’ll cherish! Make memories to last a lifetime! Give generously and help share peace and goodwill for all!

Yes, to all of these. As far as that last encouragement, when you’re considering your list of worthwhile causes to celebrate with a special gift, please keep WeTip at the top of that list.

WeTip: 47 Years of Unrivaled Service to Help Us Create Safer Communities

WeTip is one of the best resources in America for regular citizens to prevent and report crime. It is a toll-free, nationwide, 24/7/365 anonymous hotline and website committed to providing the most effective crime alerting system in the nation.

Once the caller has been assured anonymity, the operator takes them through a series of up to 65 questions, developed through the aid of law enforcement to elicit as much information as possible. Oftentimes the caller has more helpful information than they even realize. WeTip has become an essential service for crime-stoppers and a vital resource for law enforcement.

Founded in 1972 by a retired San Bernadino county sheriff who envisioned a better way for everyday citizens to report crimes, he understood the value of a service that was truly anonymous. Now 46 years later, boasting over 1,336,138 crimes reported, 16,391 arrests, a phenomenal 8,396 convictions, and NOT ONE informant ever revealed – the success and longevity of WeTip is proof that when good people are brave, motivated, and get involved, they can make a difference!

While completely independent from the police, WeTip has become an invaluable source of intelligence and information to local, regional, national, and even international law enforcement. They relay all tip information to every appropriate agency that may be able to help with a crime; whether that be the local area precinct detectives, Department of Child and Family Services, housing authorities, school administrators, corporations, animal protection, forest service, private agencies, or whatever the individual situation calls for. They don’t rest until the situation is being investigated from every angle, and taken seriously. This tremendously successful program has dramatically impacted unsolved crimes, and has significantly reduced crime incidents in communities and schools nationwide.

Here are 10 Reasons Why Your Donation to WeTip Matters.

 

    1. WeTip is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that has relied on donations from people like you to keep their hotline running for over 46 years–and the results are astounding. More than ONE MILLION crimes have been reported resulting in nearly 9,000 convictions — that’s how citizen-supported, citizen action works.

      But while WeTip is a nationwide service, they receive no federal funding. You can donate with confidence knowing that your funds are not being handled by a middle man, but all support goes directly into this secure, established resource that is protecting communities, children, the elderly, animals, and the environment.

    2. In 2007, WeTip updated its service to include taking anonymous tips online in addition to the telephone hotline. The online method of reporting has been extremely effective, but is an additional expense of equipment and utilities. Your donation will help cover those bills.
    3. Your donation directly impacts America’s youth: WeTip is combating bullying and terror on the front lines in our schools. This year alone, WeTip has received over 90 reports of bullying, and aided in the prevention of school attacks. When school districts partner with WeTip, it does more than just empower individuals with information to speak up – it is also a powerful deterrent. It causes someone to think twice before engaging in unacceptable conduct. In fact, schools that use WeTip find that the service discourages harmful or inappropriate behavior from happening in the first place. The deterrent factor resulted in a decrease in crime in one of WeTip’s school districts by an astounding 90%.
Tips Received To Date

 

  1. Animals cannot speak up when they are being neglected, hoarded or abused, so thankfully WeTip is ready to answer the call when a good samaritan blows the whistle on a situation where animals are being harmed. WeTip works closely with the appropriate rescue organizations to get the animals to safety and hold the abusers accountable. Animal lovers nationwide understand how important this work is, and every donation helps save these innocent lives.
  2. One of the areas that WeTip has been the most successful is the war on drugs. Approximately 75% of the tips the hotline receives are drug related. Over $340,000,000 in drugs and $6,875,000 in cash has been seized because of WeTip information, and they have intervened in countless threatening and dangerous situations.

    The numbers show the impressive impact the WeTip solution is having on breaking down the dangerous code of silence. The dramatic increases in the number of tips received each year demonstrates the change in culture and attitudes about reporting unsafe behaviors and situations. Donating to this important work directly affects communities in need, and innocent children who are exposed to this culture.

  3. The best technology for the best results: WeTip leverages mission-critical tech tools to deliver results and stay effective. WeTip’s success as a national resource depends on the ability to be available 24/7 – 356 days a year and to deliver on its promise of anonymity when citizens do report crime tips. For 47 years, WeTip has devoted a significant share of its resources to its tipline and reporting systems.

    In 2019, the number one operational need is an upgrade to their digital infrastructure.

    This upgrade will insure that individuals and communities continue to have access to this invaluable service while delivering on WeTip’s promise of anonymity for tipsters.

    ANONYMOUS: And this is important — WeTip is truly anonymous, not just “confidential”. What’s the difference? Confidential means that someone knows your name and promises not to tell, until they are subpoenaed. Anonymous means that nobody knows who you are and there is absolutely no way to find out. WeTip has no taping, tracing or caller ID. They have no way of knowing who the caller is.

  4. There are rewards for getting involved and doing the right thing. Every tipster is offered the opportunity to receive a reward up to $1000 (with some higher rewards offered in specific instances) for information leading to arrest and conviction. These rewards are paid through WeTip’s anonymous and unique reward payment system.

    This is the only program of its kind in the nation, and honors the fact that though many people will choose to remain anonymous for their own reasons, when people can and do come forward, they deserve recognition for taking positive action. In fact, the rewards program is extremely effective in encouraging otherwise hesitant folks to make that call, and the rewards — more than $1M and counting — are only made possible by donated funds.

  5. WeTip has specialized Native American Reservations Services, offering a safe, highly valued opportunity for members of these communities to protect themselves and others from devastating crime and victimization. Services include: education regarding Tribal security, school security, community health, and the dangers involved in drug and gang activity; domestic violence; drug endangered children; threats and actual violence; property destruction; elder abuse; truancy and underage drinking. WeTip is also utilized by visitors to reservation casinos who have information about illegal activities like fraud, robbery, burglary, malicious mischief, threats, violence and drug activity. Your donation will help WeTip provide brochures, stickers, flyers, posters, magnets and parking lot signs, all designed to maintain a visual presence of the hotline phone number.
  6. Knowledge is power. WeTip is only helping if people know to use it. Your donation to WeTip not only helps to keep their day-to-day operations possible, but it also helps with the communications, public relations and marketing efforts — all necessary to increase public awareness of the hotline and ensure that everyone who needs WeTip knows about WeTIp, and how to take safe, positive action against criminals and other threats to health and wellbeing.
  7. A donation to WeTip is a gift that keeps on giving all year round, especially if your gift is in memory of someone special.During this holiday season, often times those feelings of peace and goodwill are lost among the pressures of buying material presents.

This year, consider a gift that is guaranteed to make a difference now and into the future. And if you have a loved on that has been affected or lost because of unsolved crime and violence, a gift in their honor is a lasting tribute to their memory and a hopeful action taken in their name for a better future.

Please join us today and help us create safer communities across the US.

You can help and make a difference by donating, and by spreading awareness about this valuable service to friends and family. One call can make a difference and may save a life, solve a cold case, or prevent a crime from happening in the first place.

We live in an era where we no longer have the luxury of looking the other way, or expecting someone else to be responsible and do the right thing, so “If you see something, say something” by calling WeTip’s Hotline at 1-800-78-CRIME.

WeTip has been making a difference for 46 years, and with your help, will continue to grow and serve even more communities.

Make your donation online. For more information about the impact of citizen action through WeTip, visit the website.

Sharlee Jeter Explores How People Flourish Under Extraordinary Circumstances In Her New Book The Stuff and Through The Turn 2 Foundation

They called him names like “Captain Clutch” and “Mr. November.” Throughout an 18-year career with the New York Yankees, Derek Jeter had a legendary ability to persevere in high-pressure situations.

The trait apparently runs in the family. Jeter’s younger sister, Sharlee, shutout Hodgkin’s lymphoma while simultaneously balancing coursework as a college student in 2001. Her poise in facing this life-threatening battle inspired even the clutch-hitting shortstop. Now cancer-free, Sharlee is speaking out for the first time about her struggle and sharing the stories of others who managed to flourish in the face of extraordinary challenges in a new book called The Stuff.

Co-written with her friend Dr. Sampson Davis, a physician who’s seen it all while treating thousands of patients in the emergency room, the book profiles men and women who have what they call “the stuff” – an ability to surmount daunting obstacles and then thrive from the experience. In The Stuff, Davis and Jeter highlight 11 core elements that allow individuals not only to survive, but to flourish in the face of extraordinarily challenging circumstances. It’s an investigation in courage and resiliency, and shines a bright light on an ethos that surrounds her each day as president of the Turn 2 Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyle choices among youth.

“In the course of my life and work with the Turn 2 Foundation, I have encountered remarkable people whose ability to overcome seemingly impossible circumstances has inspired me,” she said. “We wrote The Stuff as a way to share their incredible stories, document our search for more real-life superheroes, and uncover the special qualities that drive individuals to do extraordinary things. My hope is to empower young people to dig deep and believe they can achieve anything.”

Launched in 1996, Derek’s rookie year, Turn 2 supports programs and activities that steer young people away from drugs and alcohol and toward positive behaviors. It’s a mission that lines up well with STOPit’s emphasis as a tool that empowers kids to take a stand against bullying and abusive behaviors so they can help create safer school communities. Sharlee serves as a member of STOPit’s Board of Directors.

“Derek and I talk to about this a lot; kids these days deal with a lot of pressures,” she said. “When we were growing up, you would race home and hope the bullies didn’t catch you, or maybe you didn’t want to go to school the next day to face them. But now the bullies can follow you right into your home through your phone and social media.”

Jeter’s Leaders

Turn 2’s signature initiative is Jeter’s Leaders, a leadership development program that provides young people with unique opportunities to learn more about themselves and their communities. Participants are expected to model positive behavior and deliver a message to their peers focused on staying in school, rejecting substance abuse and serving their communities.

The process for becoming a Leader is highly competitive. Turn 2 selects about 20 youths each year from a pool of hundreds of applicants living in the New York metro area or West Michigan, where Derek and Sharlee were raised. Applicants must maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher, furnish letters of recommendation and complete an essay on leadership before submitting to multiple rounds of interviews.

“We’re continuing to send them off to school and teaching them at a young age to give back, be a role model and to be kind,” Sharlee said. “We try to provide kids with mentors who believe in them and support them; positive role models to teach them skills so they are in a position to do the right thing. These role models also give our kids opportunities — access to career days, paid internship opportunities, and college tours.”

So far, the Leaders are seeing a 100% high school graduation rate and they are earning acceptances in excellent colleges. And thanks to the work of the Turn 2 Foundation and its partners, Jeter’s Leaders are eligible for scholarship opportunities to help make it possible for more students to reach their goals for a college education.

“In 21 years of the program, we’ve had 20 graduating classes of young people who are out there striving to stay positive and succeed. They’re using what they learned as Jeter’s Leaders, and are working to flip the negative narratives, including those that come through social media. By serving as leaders and remaining true to their positive values, these students are able to make a profound difference in their communities.”

And each morning when she wakes up, Sharlee puts her feet on the floor knowing that the mission of Turn 2 and her work on The Stuffis having an impact, “Our Jeter’s Leaders are incredibly smart kids,” she said. “If you ever meet them, you start to feel better about where society is headed these days.”

Learn More. Do More.

To learn more about how you can support the Turn 2 Foundation, visit www.turn2foundation.org.

More information on The Stuff can be found at https://thestuffmovement.com/.

Nurses Caring for Communities And Being Physically Assaulted, Harassed and Bullied In Return

“Nurses need strong coping mechanisms, and as many resources as possible to handle the extremely delicate and stressful situations that they face daily. Lateral violence and workplace bullying are commonplace, and it’s not just fellow nurses who are responsible for incivility. Every member of the healthcare team – including patients, families, and doctors – can be both a target or a perpetrator. In the world of health care, the human condition is unpredictable and emotionally charged.”
~ Dr. Seun Ross, the Director of Nursing Practice and Work Environment at the American Nurses Association (representing over 3 million nurses), stated in an interview with NBC News.

In May of this year, 160 ER nurses travelled to Washington, D.C., to advocate for legislation promoting a safe workplace for health care employees. When the audience was asked: “who has ever been the victim of violence in their hospital?”, nearly every hand in the room went up.

Studies conducted by nursing associations have found that most nurses are regularly victims of bullying, harassment, racism, degradation, intimidation, unwanted sexual advances, and even violence on the job. In one study, over fifty percent of ER nurses reported experiencing violence at work within only the first seven days of their participation in the study. To make matters worse, nearly half (46.7%) of those who report incidents of any kind to their supervisor failed to receive support; and many got either no response or were asked to keep quiet.

No person should have to endure harassment or fear for their personal safety when doing their job, even nurses who expect to do hard physical work and interact with customers and co-workers in sometimes uncomfortable, intimate personal ways. And yet, obviously it happens, and with alarming frequency.

Helpers Need Help

A nurse who has been on the job for 57 years was asked if she had ever heard of a situation where a whistleblower was taken seriously and the perpetrator held accountable. She could only recall one incident – where an administrator was a known sexual predator and he was finally demoted from department head to a lower position where women were no longer required to report to him. However, he did not lose his title, seniority or salary status.

“There’s a culture of bullying and intimidation in nursing, especially for new nurses, which is why so many quit within the first five years. There is a lot of “hazing” that goes on, which I guess is meant to weed out the weak; toughen people up – but instead it creates an environment of hostility and mistrust. Bullying becomes normalized, and accepted as just one of the hazards of the job. Over time, the cumulative stress causes severe depression, anxiety, anger, insomnia, absenteeism, patient neglect, apathy, alcoholism, drug use, smoking, and other unhealthy habits designed to numb the pain and frustration. Rates of suicide, divorce, and burnout are very high. Staff turnover is constant; nurses always quitting or getting fired. After many bad early experiences I’m finally at a good facility now where they encourage teamwork, pair up nurses that work well together, and foster a workplace that is safe, professional, and diverse.”
~F.V., BSN at a NJ Nursing Home and Hospice Center for 8+ years.

Hidden Costs in Healthcare: More Than Just Money

In an organization that promotes health and healing, burnout and high turnover is a liability that impacts everyone from the CEO to the patient waiting to be admitted.

The Joint Commission revealed in 2014 that …71% of physicians and nurses linked incivility to medical error, and 99% of physicians (out of 800) believed bad behavior negatively impacted patient care. This means that in addition to the toll harassment and bullying takes on nursing staff, patient care is also impacted — and ultimately, increases hospital liability.

“Healthcare is getting more and more complex. Increasing demands, decreasing resources, burn out and bullying are huge contributing factors to how employees show up every day. Public criticisms, threatening or intimidating comments, blaming, sabotage, nurse bullying and incivility, and workplace violence are all impacting patient care.”
~ Renee Thompson, DNP, RN, CMSRN, CSP; Founder of The Healthy Workforce Institute; and the leading authority on creating a healthy workforce culture by eradicating nurse bullying, workplace bullying, and incivility.

Unfortunately, bullying, discrimination, harassment and violence cannot be prevented from occurring, but nursing staff can be armed with tools to empower themselves, and also to create workplace environments where they feel supported and safe to report incidents that impact their own lives, that of their coworkers and their patients. Some attempts to address the situation that hospitals have implemented, like complaint drop boxes and 1-800 tip lines. But, they are often perceived by nursing staff as too risky as they’re not genuinely anonymous, or worse yet – “just for show”, with little or no follow up.

Fortunately, with the advent of tools like STOPit, empowering staff to report dangerous behavior is easy. It’s easy to implement safe, confidential reporting and it’s easy to administer. STOPit’s best-in-class incident management system is straightforward and logical. In less than an hour, assigned staff can be up and running on STOPit Admin, with an intuitive, customizable dashboard and user experience that makes incident management and reporting extremely manageable in the context of an already high-pressure work environment.

With the knowledge that an employer is taking the reports seriously and actively using an anonymous tool such as the STOPIt app, nursing staff can feel empowered to safely report incidents, and hospital administration can follow up in a way that is best suited for their needs and culture.

Better outcomes for staff. Better outcomes for patients. Just better.

Call today to speak with a STOPit app consultant and see if an anonymous reporting solution is right for your healthcare workplace.

The Pain Surrounding Cyberbullying and Why NJ Is Leading The Country By Addressing Student Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB)

“They all just kept saying such mean things about me…I don’t feel like getting out of bed anymore…I don’t know what else to do to make the pain go away.”

As a Licensed Professional Counselor with a practice focused on working with children, adolescents, and their parents, I have no shortage of stories about how cyberbullying impacts the lives of my clients. In my practice, 80% of the youth I work with have disclosed being taunted, teased, or mocked through social media apps like YouTube, Instagram, and SnapChat at least once, with more than 50% sharing repeated instances of cyberbullying. Even when children are not the victims of cyberbullying themselves, bearing witness to their peers attacking one another in semi-anonymous platforms online changes the way children live their lives. Some of my clients avoid engaging in activities that they enjoy for fear of being mocked online, while many others find themselves being swept up in the cyber-storm of making fun of someone online in order to be part of the crowd. Unfortunately, bullying has always been part of growing up, but the nature of bullying has changed – and so must the way adults address it. Consequences to deter bullying might help, but by and large the underlying causes of bullying behavior, as well as the aftermath for victims, remain linked to mental health, an issue that is silently eating at today’s youth.

How is Cyberbullying Different?

Cyberbullying is not your parents’ bullying, literally. Before the days of cell phones, bullying took place primarily in the school yard, with teases and taunts being the primary weapons of choice. Many adults remember being told by their parents to just tell the bullies, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words can never hurt me,” and to ignore those who would mock them. Today, bullying takes place in cyberspace; an intangible arena that is public, anonymous, permanent, and ever-present. Without having to face their victims in person and relying on the ability to hide their identity, bullies are often less empathetic towards their victims, typing messages that are more vicious than they would ever say in person. And since these messages are all online, there is no limit to where or when bullying can take place. Children and teenagers connect to their world through their cell phones and essentially carry their bullies with them everywhere they go.

What has been done to address this issue?

School officials tend to be the first to find out about bullying incidents, since the school is often the first place parents contact to seek an intervention when their children tell them about being bullied. New Jersey is a leader in legislation addressing harassment, intimidation, and bullying, also known as “HIB.” The robust NJ statute outlines the procedures for school officials to follow when a HIB incident is reported in a way that takes bullying seriously and doesn’t minimize the issue. Other schools across the country are following suit, creating laws ensuring that bullying incidents are properly handled. However, in New Jersey as well as other states, there is a lot of information that must be collected in order to meet the requirements for a HIB incident report. This can be a tedious process and requires that students report incidents in full to school faculty which may place a large burden on the victims and witnesses of bullying.

Getting to the heart of the matter

Reports of behavior incidents are important to record, and then confirmed for accuracy. Anything that can be done to deter and reduce this behavior is very important, but some cyberbullying continues to happen and proper action is needed. HIB paperwork can be cumbersome to complete, but its effects reach far beyond addressing singular incidents of bullying. Children who are victims of cyberbullying are at increased risk of:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • school phobia
  • truancy
  • low self-esteem
  • self-harm
  • suicidal ideation and attempts

Of the youth that share cyberbullying stories with me, each one of them has also reported at least two of the bullet points listed above and almost 30% of these youth have met the diagnostic criteria for Major Depressive Disorder.

Victims aren’t the only ones who suffer, though. Those who bully others often exhibit these mental health risks as well and may even be victims themselves.

Troublingly, many children who bully others have a history of significantly stressful or traumatic life events. There are already a limited number of therapists who treat children and teenagers, and all too often these children fall through the cracks, not receiving sufficient services or care to address these emotional challenges. HIB reports are one way identify those children who are most at risk for emotional or behavioral challenges. HIB reporting offers the opportunity to address the underlying issues of bullying rather than being purely punitive or reactive. By identifying both the victims and bullies, schools and parents can work together to link students with professional counselors who can assess mental health risks and help children and teens develop coping skills to respond to bullying and build resilience against future stresses.

And in New Jersey at least, strong HIB regulations seem to have meaningful impact. For the most recent one year period available on a national level, 2015, the rate of suicide in New Jersey for youth age 10-24 remains lower (5.5 per 100,000) than the national rate (9.2 per 100,000). Still, suicide remains the third leading cause of death for youth aged 10-24 in New Jersey.

(NEW JERSEY YOUTH SUICIDE REPORT, www.nj.gov, New Jersey Dept of Children and Families)

The bottom line – the effects of bullying can last years beyond childhood and adolescence. It is imperative that schools and parents work together to make addressing the underlying issues of bullying a priority.

I believe tools like STOPit, which allow for anonymous reporting and make (confirmed only) HIB reporting easier and more efficient enables parents and officials to focus on what is really important: the health and safety of their students. When at-risk children are identified as either bullies or victims, schools and parents are given the opportunity to connect these children with therapeutic counseling services and break the cycle of bullying.

Dr. Jenna Meyerberg is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of New Jersey and specializes in working with children, adolescents, and families. She is the owner of Meyerberg Counseling, LLC in Parlin, NJ and a therapist at Developing Wellness Therapy Group, LLC in Brick, NJ. Learn more at: http://bit.ly/2zg6Glr.

If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Amanda Todd’s Life Was Lost To Cyberbullying. Today, Many Find Hope Thanks To The Legacy and Light She Left Behind.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month in the United States. As one way of recognizing the importance of anti-bullying efforts everywhere, we are presenting a two-part series examining STOPit’s genesis as an anti-bullying technology solution.

This post honors Amanda Todd. Her life and the circumstances of her death were the inspiration behind why STOPit’s company founder, Todd Schobel, founded the anonymous reporting app and incident management solution.

Amanda Todd

The girl’s hands trembled as she flipped through a stack of notecards. With a camera trained on her from the nose down — keeping a viewer’s full focus on the hand-written words in black marker, rather than her face – she slowly recounted an experience that had turned her life upside down and driven her to depression.

Fifteen-year-old Amanda Todd always loved the camera, and like a fellow Canadian teen named Justin Bieber, had a passion for sharing her music with the world on YouTube. Like many her age, she also explored the online frontier of chat rooms and livestream conversations. But one night, she made a teenage mistake of sharing intimate images of herself with a male chatting with her online. The person on the other end of the camera took a screenshot and attempted to blackmail her to do more.

She refused his demands, and the image was disseminated widely and repeatedly to her family, her classmates and beyond. Contacting the police, the passage of time — even switching to different schools — none of this helped stem the onslaught of cyberbullying that followed.

A month after sharing her story through flashcards in a heart wrenching video on YouTube, Amanda took her own life.

In the wake of her death, the video went viral around the world. But her story doesn’t end there. In fact, thanks to Amanda’s mother, Carol Todd, Amanda continues to have a positive impact, still bringing her own creative, inspiring spark into countless lives.

The Amanda Todd Legacy Society

Today, Amanda’s life — all of it — serves as a powerful warning to today’s young people and parents about the catastrophic seriousness of relentless bullying and harassment and a poignant plea to would-be cyberbullies to consider the ramifications of their actions. But, just as important, her life is inspiring thousands of others to take positive action against bullying and to pursue better mental health and wellness.

“She left a legacy behind,” said Carol. “Her YouTube video has become iconic. It’s been viewed 49 million times, spurred presentations, documentaries, and brought communities together around fighting bullying, including cyberbullying. When I travel abroad for speaking presentations, many know of the story of Amanda Todd, which is overwhelming.”

Amanda’s story continues to inspire HOPE FOR CHANGE in all of us. For kids in the U.S. and Canada. For Carol, who launched the Amanda Todd Legacy Society to raise awareness of cyber abuse. And to a commuter named Todd Schobel, who was so moved by a story he heard on the radio about Amanda that he created an anonymous reporting app called STOPit.

In the course of her advocacy work for the Society, Carol frequently hears stories about how Amanda has inspired people to act. “I received an email this morning from a middle-schooler mum. Her child has always had empathy for the kids who sit alone and are bullied,” said Todd in a recent interview. “This mum told me that her son stepped in to stop a bullying incident in the lunch room and sat with the boy, helped him clean up. The other boy said to him, ‘Thank you for helping. Thank you for coming to my side, no one has ever done that.’ It’s stories like this that Amanda’s story inspires people to share; inspires them to take action.”

Todd continued, “The son went home to his mum and asked her to speak to the school principal and take action, which he did. Then the local police found out and the mum told me they are presenting her son with a coin to acknowledge his actions.”

Other stories like this flood her email, everyday. Like the one from the father that walked from Pennsylvania to Santa Monica. He wrote Carol that he needed to do something positive to prove to his daughter that people can do good, positive things. “Your daughter’s story has affected me,” he wrote Todd, “and I want to do something positive to make a difference in my kid’s and other kid’s lives.”

In one, widely reported example, composer Jocelyn Morlock wrote a song called “My Name Is Amanda Todd,” which went on to garner a Juno Award, the Canadian equivalent of the Grammys. During the nationally televised awards gala, Morlock brought Carol with her on stage, turned to her and told her, “You are my hero.”

Amanda’s Legacy

Amanda died six years ago on Oct. 10, which is also, coincidentally, recognized as World Mental Health Day. Each year, the Amanda Todd Legacy Society encourages cities, businesses, schools, landmarks and people to #LightUpPurple to promote awareness of mental health and Amanda’s story. To further its mission of education, bullying prevention, positive social change and mental health and wellness, The Society partners closely with various corporate partners to effect even greater impact — partners like Telus, a Canadian telecom company that funds TELUS Wise, a free educational program that teaches Canadians of all ages about managing their privacy, security and reputation online.

Learn More. Do More.

To read more about the Amanda Todd Legacy Society, get involved in the mission and see the Society’s recommended resources for bullying, cyberbullying, mental health and more, click here.

And if you live in the United States and you or someone you know is being harassed and bullied in school, online — anywhere — help is available.

With special thanks to Carol Todd for her help with this piece, and most especially for her work to help build a safer, kinder world for all of us.

How The Tragic Story of One 15 Year Old During National Bullying Prevention Month Galvanized The Creation of An Anonymous Reporting App Now Helping Thousands

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. As one way of recognizing the importance of anti-bullying efforts everywhere, we are presenting a two-part series examining STOPit’s genesis as an anti-bullying solution.

This article recounts company founder Todd Schobel’s inspiration for the technology.

Todd Schobel was driving home from work on Oct. 10, 2012 – the heart of National Bullying Prevention Month — when a story on the radio changed his life forever. It was the tragic story of Amanda Todd, a victim of online predation and the cruel and relentless taunting by her peers. Amanda took her own life at just 15 years old.

Amanda had shared her story via flashcards in a YouTube video that caught the world’s attention. In it, she told of a male who coerced her into sharing intimate photos on a webcam. He then shared an image of her widely, leading to merciless cyberbullying by her peers.

“I can never get that photo back,” Amanda wrote on one of the cards. “It’s out there forever.” The realization was too heavy for her to bear.

“I believed the key to helping people like Amanda was to empower them to use the same technology that was inflicting hurt to ask for help,” Schobel said. “In that moment, STOPit was born.”

Schobel’s vision for STOPit began as an anonymous app to report cyberbullying by empowering people young and old, chiefly in school environments, to make a difference. It has since grown into something far more – a technology that is helping aid police investigationsthwart workplace sexual harassmentmitigate toxic work environments, among many other uses.

“I am very proud to say the impact has been life-changing for students, communities and workplaces across the country,” Schobel said. “The STOPit platform was created to give everyone a voice to affect change in every facet of our lives to create safer places for all of us to learn, work and live. From the daunting challenges we face in our schools and communities to what we see in the workplace regarding sexual harassment and discrimination, I recognize just how powerful someone’s voice can be to affect real change.”

Since that fateful day six years ago, more than 3,000 schools in over 40 states have adopted STOPit. The system was used to field nearly 30,000 reports in the 2017-18 school year alone, with incidents ranging from harassment to mental health concerns to suicidal ideation.

“I am so pleased with the progress we have made across the world transforming the way people report and prevent all forms of illegal and inappropriate conduct,” Schobel said. “In thousands of locations around the globe, STOPit has become a catalyst for cultural transformation, positively impacting behaviors for the betterment of society.”

“I look forward to a world where you aren’t bullied in school, aren’t humiliated in college, aren’t harassed at work, treated with dignity as you grow old, and live your life in safe communities where citizens know that when they see something, they can say something without fear.”

More Resources

For more information on bullying and bullying prevention, including steps you can take to stop abuse in your schools or community, visit:

The Amanda Todd Legacy

Carol Todd, mother of Amanda Todd, launched the Amanda Todd Legacy Society to honor her daughter’s life and build a lasting legacy of hope and help. The organization’s work includes education, advocacy and financial assistance for programs to empower youth, parents, educators, and community leaders who are taking positive action to prevent bullying and build mental health resilience.

Schools Are Leveraging Grant Funds to Launch Anonymous Reporting Systems. Here’s How One State Did It.

A superintendent in Wisconsin wept following a cybersafety assembly held to launch STOPit in his school district. His community was grieving after a student from a neighboring district committed suicide a few days earlier. Students approached the superintendent after the assembly and shared the text messages they’d received from the distraught student just before his suicide, including messages with photos showing the weapon he intended to use. The students did their best to get the student to choose life – but they didn’t know what else to do. If the anonymous reporting app had been available just days earlier, they could have used it – a move that may have saved a life.

“[The Superintendent] was broken-hearted,” said Kerrie Ackerson, Development and Innovation Specialist for Wisconsin Cooperative Educational Service Agency 10 (CESA 10). “He just wished that he had STOPit a week earlier. He said, ‘I don’t care what I’m paying for this, we need this. I will never put my kids in a position again where they have something like those texts and don’t know what to do with them – then they have to live with that outcome on their heart.”

Ackerson is working to ensure that the chances of this scenario repeating are slimmer. CESA 10 is one of a dozen organizations in Wisconsin that functions as a co-op for public schools, pooling resources and making them available to individual schools to save money and create efficiencies. The organization recently assisted nearly 100 districts in accessing funds from the state’s Department of Justice to improve safety at schools across Wisconsin.

Successful applicants were required to initially focus on hardening their schools by adding bullet resistant window film, door locks and other infrastructure upgrades. Any remaining funds could be used at their discretion.

“We encouraged them to find a balance of the hardening items and then some softer items, like mental health first aid training for teachers and other things that fell on the preventative end of the spectrum,” Ackerson said. “STOPit fit nicely there.”

On behalf of districts, CESA 10 negotiated a deal with STOPit for a bundle including its anonymous reporting app,its 24-hour incident monitoring service, and assistance organizing cybersafety assemblies. The arrangement helped make the service affordable for Wisconsin’s smaller rural districts.

Available Funds

While every state has its own distinct funding streams, Ackerson points to a few sources that could potentially finance anonymous reporting systems in schools, anywhere. Among them:

  • Title IVa: This federal funding pool promotes activities that “support safe and healthy students,” and Ackerson said that definition is flexible. It is distributed to each state as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act and distributed via formula. This fund was nearly tripled in 2018 and increased a bit more in 2019.
  • Stop School Violence Act Grants: The latest federal budget provides $95 million in funding in 2019. It’s a small pot with lots of competition, but the legislation specifically mentions the development and operation of anonymous reporting systems as a measure for which schools can receive funding.
  • Philanthropy: Ackerson encourages schools to explore partnering with philanthropic organizations for solutions like STOPit. This could also include donors and business leaders at the regional/local level who have a record of investing in their communities.

“Don’t overlook philanthropy when you’re thinking about school safety,” she said. “Most very philanthropic individuals have children; they went to school and they understand why school safety matters. Additionally, STOPit has such a large impact at such a low price point that it is very manageable and valuable to local philanthropists be they individuals or businesses.”

Promoting Strengths to Grantors

CESA 10 researched nearly a dozen tiplines and anonymous reporting apps before choosing STOPit. The features that set it apart was its 24-hour monitoring service and customer satisfaction. Many schools don’t have the resources to watch for reports outside of school hours, and the evaluation team was not comfortable with the idea that an urgent message could be sent in the middle of the night and go unseen. After a reference check with other STOPit users garnered positive feedback, CESA 10 committed to the system, negotiated an agreement, and began offering it to schools.

When writing grants for anonymous reporting tools, Ackerson recommends that schools be specific about how anonymous reporting is part of a balanced, holistic approach to addressing school safety. She said grantors also appreciate that tools like STOPit are especially effective when deployed as a local solution, with the system being run in-house, not outsourced to an unaffiliated vendor or police agency. Applicants should also call attention to the demonstrated effectiveness of anonymous reporting to save lives and curb crime in a cost-effective way.

Finally, Ackerson said that a powerful selling point for grant reviewers is that mobile device-based solutions are unquestionably the best way to tap into younger generations.

“Most people can envision kids walking around staring at their phone. Most people can envision kids seeing something in the hallway, like a fight, and recording it on their phone,” Ackerson said. “We want to meet kids where they’re at. And where they’re at, like it or not, is on their hand-held devices.”

To speak with a specialist about implementing the STOPit anonymous reporting solution in your school, call us today.

Human Resource Departments Have An Important New Team Member to Help Stop Workplace Harassment, and It’s an App

New hire orientation — and all the forms and paperwork that comes with it; leave of absence forms; workers comp reports; health benefit changes; annual reviews. Human resources staffs and budgets are already stretched thin under tremendous pressure to handle more tasks, more projects and find more solutions than ever.

And there are always updates to policies and procedures. Add in new regulations, like the one just passed by the State of New York requiring employers to adopt new policies, conduct additional trainings and submit new reports to address sexual harassment in the workplace, and the administrative burden on HR just continues to increase every year.

Great Tech Helps Solve Problems

Whether these laws are good isn’t at issue. Most often, these laws and policies address very real problems that should be addressed. The New York law aimed at making workplaces safer and more equitable by stamping out sexual harassment is a good thing. Everyone should feel safe and valued, even protected, as they’re going about their daily work. That’s why more and more states are adopting similar laws with similar goals.

What is at issue is how companies can do the right thing–the best thing for their employees and their company — and find a way to do it that doesn’t stretch the HR department to the breaking point.

The HR department is often tasked with helping build healthy workplace culture. How can it meet and exceed this mission if staff are feeling overburdened and overwhelmed?

Fortunately, though many decry over-reliance on technology as a potential hazard, in this case technology done well can the the best solution to doing the right thing without overwhelming any person or department.

An anonymous reporting technology like STOPit, one that gives employees the power to speak up and ask for help with issues like sexual harassment without any fear of reprisal, is one example of technology done well. More and more companies are taking a proactive approach to empowering employees in the workplace so they can be more productive, safer and happier — and mobile app technologies are quickly becoming a solution of choice to power opportunities and solve problems.

Meeting and Exceeding Goals For Safer Workplaces

But while it’s commonplace to ask employees to download and use an app that tracks their steps in order to qualify for lower health insurance premiums, or a texting app to better communicate with team members at remote locations, until recently there hasn’t been a great choice when it comes to an app for reporting incidents of harassment, abuse and malfeasance. Traditional texting and email are straightforward communication tools for many issues, but they aren’t efficient at managing HR cases, particularly those of a sensitive nature that require anonymity and confidentiality. A new direct communication platform is needed to ensure proper and complete documentation and reporting for managing incidents that might involve disciplinary action or legal remedy.

Apps like STOPit are solving those problems.

STOPit is a two-way communications street that can lead to breakthroughs in the search for facts in troubling cases, and encourage people to stand up for themselves and for their colleagues in difficult, dangerous and unfair situations. It’s a simple, straightforward solution, combining an intuitive, easy to use interface for the anonymous reporting app with a powerful, equally intuitive incident management system that take only minutes to set up.

The entire solution requires very little training to learn to use and is packed with snapshot reports and a dashboard that makes administrative tasks simple. The system keeps a permanent record of incidents and tracks what actions were taken and when, making reporting for compliance and legal audiences a five minute task — not a chore that eats up an entire afternoon.

And, just as important, best-in-class customer service ensures that questions and requests for help are answered promptly by a dedicated representative that is focused on client success. All this ensures your HR department has the right tool tool to engage employees in building healthier, safer workplaces and also comply with ever evolving laws and policies to combat workplace harassment — a tool that’s effective, cost-effective and one that is a true time-saver for administrators.

Contact STOPit today to learn more about how you can empower your HR department and build a better, more productive workplace.

Your Toxic Employee is Costing You More Than Our Anonymous Reporting App

If one bad apple spoils a whole bunch, then what about one toxic employee?

Most of us know the answer all too well. Toxic employees come in many forms. There are yellers, liars, blamers and system gamers. There are intimidators, loafers, battlers and tattlers.

Any one of these or a hundred other negative personalities can cause a feeling of dread every time you pull into the parking lot. Toxic employees spawn toxic work environments, and what happens during those eight hours a day can hinder people’s happiness and opinion of their employer. It can also impact a company’s bottom line.

According to a 2015 study by the workforce recruiting and training firm Cornerstone OnDemand, good employees are 54 percent more likely to quit when they work with a toxic employee, even if there’s only one of them on a team of 20. The report also concluded that each toxic worker costs a company approximately $12,800 in replacement costs — training the new person, conducting searches and interviews, etc. – to say nothing of the hit to a company’s reputation and the resulting difficulties attracting top talent that follow high turnover.

What You Don’t Know WILL Hurt – Everyone.

Toxic cultures can take root without management knowing a word about it, until the exit interviews start piling up. Part of the reason is that good workers will often try to ride it out for a while rather than talk to anyone about it. They are scared to make a bad situation worse while not even seeing the situation solved, and then their only comments will be their resignation. When in a toxic workplace these good employees often ‘vote with their feet’.

According to a national survey of over 1,000 full-time employees by the conflict resolution firm Fierce, 53 percent of respondents said they handle toxic employees by trying to ignore them, while just under a quarter confront them directly. Only 18 percent said they complain to management. Forty-one percent said that even if they did tell their higher-ups, they don’t believe anything would be done to address the situation.

Whether these responses are driven by personal experiences or conversations picked up at the water cooler, the fear is real — and may not be entirely wrong. Some toxic employees have a talent for positioning themselves to avoid notice or repercussions from management, among them:

  • The Manager’s Buddy: Skilled in the arts of office politics, no one suspects they have it in them to make their colleagues miserable.
  • The High Achievers: When your sales numbers are the best on the staff, people are less inclined to look for your downsides.
  • The Veterans: After working in the office for 23 years, people get accustomed to looking the other way for their “quirks.”
  • Jekyll & Hydes: Experts at flying under the radar, they become totally different people around those who can make life difficult for them.

You Gave Them A Role. Now Give Them A Voice.

“Company leaders need to ensure that all employees are empowered with the tools to address these toxic individuals in a productive and ultimately successful way,” said Stacey Engle, executive vice president at Fierce, Inc.

Perhaps most important among those tools is a voice. The survey numbers bear out what many of us who have been in the position understand – that complaining to management seems too risky to go through with. The fears are real: too many employees fear being at the mercy of a human resource worker or administrator who could approach their complaint with disinterest, accept the toxic co-worker’s version of events, or worse, tell this person what you said, make no attempt to resolve it and leave you to co-exist in an office that’s more tense than before.

An anonymous reporting system like STOPit can help build trust, foster a healthier workplace culture and help solve these problems. Reports submitted through STOPit are 100 percent anonymous – there is no way for the employer to know who they are talking to. With the safe distance the arrangement provides, employees can share information, gauge the company’s initial response and grow comfortable enough to come forward and state their concerns on the record.

Prove It: Without Action, Words and Policies Aren’t Enough

For a company’s leadership, giving employees a voice and a safe way to reach out for help is more important than ever as the competition to attract and retain top talent is only increasing. Companies who aspire to rise to the top in their industry — and stay there — know that the culture they create and promote for employees matters as much, and oftentimes more, than the highest salary offer or a ping-pong table in the break room when coveted talent considers taking their offer and investing their talent long-term.

For 20 years, Fortune has compiled the list of 100 Best Companies to Work For, and in 20 years, the criteria remained unchanged.

Not so moving forward. This year Fortune announced it is updating its criteria, giving much more weight to employees’ perception of fairness, corporate ethics and inclusiveness,

“Central to our new approach is Maximizing Human Potential: we now assess how well companies create a consistently positive experience for all employees, no matter who they are or what they do for the organization. We did this to reflect the reality of the world today, and to recognize and learn from the inclusive organizations that are setting the pace. Not just for moral reasons, but for business reasons. Our most recent research shows companies that rate most highly according to our new “For All” standard grow revenue three times faster than their less-inclusive rivals. In other words, while trust fuels business performance at great workplaces, “For All” accelerates it.” Michael Bush and Sarah Lewis-Kulin

The right anonymous reporting can offer an honest picture of what’s going on in the office and allow leadership to intervene early on when problem employees begin affecting their co-workers and pushing down the bottom-line. Anonymous reporting can provide a direct line from workers at any level of the company to its decision makers – a way around those who a good worker may feel too worried to approach.

Compared to the deep cost of letting a toxic employee poison your office culture and piling up the hours spent filling the vacancies of your top employees, choosing an anonymous reporting solution that is easy to implement and use is a smart, economical business decision.

Contact STOPit today to learn how anonymous reporting can help build and support a healthier, more productive office culture for your company.

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