One in six teenagers reported being bullied via social media in the last year and 95 percent of social media-using teens say they have witnessed it and these statistics are expected to worsen.
In recent years, schools across the U.S. have been held responsible for not responding to cyberbullying and in some cases, this has led to costly law suits and civil prosecutions, as well as the disruption of education and damage to reputations. These legal challenges further show the reaching consequences of allowing cyberbullying to go unchecked. For schools, the consequences of cyberbullying can be truly devastating, sometimes deadly. With an alarming rise in school shootings, student suicides and related problems, early detection and ongoing vigilance is key for schools, teachers, parents and pupils. Mitigating risk and protecting students is now a central issue for school authorities.
Inspired by the story of Amanda Todd, the 15 year old girl who posted a video to YouTube about being bullied mere hours before taking her life, STOP!T’s Founder, Todd Schobel, father of young children himself, wanted to help. He wanted to lend a hand to those in need, not only when a story like Amanda’s receives national attention, but building everyday awareness towards deterring bullies and catching them in the act. “The day I heard of Amanda Todd, my life changed forever. Her story spoke to me and I wanted to make a real difference, not only for my children but those being affected by this heinous crime around the country,” stated Mr. Schobel.
An app that lets students anonymously report bullying, STOP!T, is an all-inclusive school program consisting of an app for reporting and an incident management system called DOCUMENTit. STOP!T encourages its users to report offensive material via the app, to trusted adults and school administrators. These reports are then configured within the DOCUMENTit incident management system which receives reports in real-time from students and pro-actively resolves issues before they go too far. More than 50,000 kids now use the app in 83 school districts across 13 states. The company recently announced $2.6 million in funding to further its implementation, not only into school districts but college campuses and in the workplace as well.
Though cyberbullies may think they are one step ahead, schools are increasingly involved in pro-active ways of limiting the rising tide of online harassment and its devastating consequences. Whether it is by empowering the children with apps such as STOPit, stringent administrative regulations, adult vigilance and teaching online ethics (most likely all of the above), the fight against cyber abuse must be won.
School administrators are starting to take notice. Brian Luciani, Principal of David Brearley Middle and High School in Kenilworth, NJ, stated “I have seen an 83% decrease in harassment, intimidation and bullying reports submitted to my office since we launched this program.”
Today, STOP!T has an office in Bedminster, New Jersey and is preparing for the launch of STOP!T 2.0, a newer version of the platform that incorporates new features and reconfigured interface. The company continues to expand domestically and has plans for implementation into schools abroad, along with entering the higher education and workplace ecosystem.