WiredSafety’s StopCyberbullying Toolkit
The volunteers at WiredSafety have worked cyberharassment cases since 1995, 18 months after the launch of the web. Hundreds of thousands of adult and young victims of online harassment and cyberbullying have turned to WiredSafety for help. It has helped educate families on hate and bigotry online and ways to use technology safely and responsibly. And, over the years, their unique perspective coupled with Parry’s expertise as one of the world's first cyberlawyers has helped guide policymakers, schools, families, NGOs, law enforcement, and the Internet industry on these issues.
But the problems online are growing faster than either Parry, our volunteers or WiredSafety as a whole, can deal with. That’s why the StopCyberbullying Toolkit was developed. By putting the tools, programs, and proven approaches into the hands of schools and community organizations, we can tackle the issues and forge solutions by working together. It’s a cyberwar and school professionals, community leaders and all young people who care are our cyberarmy.
Cyberbullying is when one minor uses technology as a weapon to target another young person. In polls of 45,000 students from North America conducted by WiredSafety.org, 85% of middle school students reported being cyberbullied at least once in 2007. In some schools the percentage of students reporting having been targeted by a cyberbully ran as high as 97%. Yet only 5% said they would entrust their parents with the fact that they are being targeted by a cyberbully.
Students have shared 65 different ways you can use a cell phone to cyberbully someone. And handheld gaming devices are common tools for harassment. Students as young as those in second grade (7 year olds) are learning about cyberbullying the hard way. Often before they know how to use the technologies, they are forced to contend with mean messages, lewd language, and threats. When asked to describe cyberbullying, second graders in Long Island, New York, explained that extortion, manipulated pictures, ID theft, hacking, and text-bullying were commonplace. At the same time, they gave more than 20 reasons why children will not confide in their parents when targeted. That list has now grown to 56.
Any vulnerability is exploited, from racial, ethnic or physical ability differences, to sexual preferences, religion and economic levels. Teens around the world engaging in “sexting” (where they take nude or sexually explicit images of themselves and text it or otherwise share it with the person they are dating, would like to date or everyone who is interested). WiredSafety has been involved in “sexting” cases from Mexico to Egypt to the UK and Canada, as well as within the US. It has become one of the fasest growing weapons in the teen bully arsenals, where the image is release and spread to hurt the victim and in some cases extort the target.
Sadly, the young people rarely know where to turn for help. The obvious choice, their best friends, may not be the trustworthy confidants they were seeking. One young teen told Parry Aftab (WiredSafety’s founder and cybersecurity lawyer), “You never know if the cyberbully is your best friend or worst enemy. You never know if your friend is just laughing at you behind your back when you turn to her for help with something they were doing anonymously.” This creates an environment where young people have no safe place to turn, and no safe person to help alleviate their pain. That’s why WiredSafety does what it does.
The upcoming StopCyberbullying Toolkit is free for schools and for community organizations. It contains practical tips, animations, activity sheets, games and printables, a risk management guide for schools, presentation materials for parents and students, first responder guides for community policing units and school resource officers, and fun activities for students of all ages. It includes materials for student handouts, parents' awareness, and for the community at large. The materials and programs are directed at four distinct student age groups: K-4th, 5th-6th, 7th-9th, and 10th-12th grades, as well as parents, and professional development audiences. Games and educational activities are deployed to help inspire learning for all ages.
While the StopCyberbullying Toolkit provides all of the information a school or community organization needs, it also provides young people with a mission. Through the StopCyberbullying Pledge, they can take a stand against cyberbullying. By taking the pledge they promise to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. The entire StopCyberbullying program is designed to motivate schools, students, and their parents to do something, not just stand there while others are hurt. It gives them the tools and information that they need to create their own grassroots campaign and address cyberbullying and hate online wherever they find it.