New Year Brings New Resolve for Students Ready to Report Bullying

STOPit school administrators, have you seen a few more reports from your students right after the holidays? There is a reason associated with that and here we will share our findings and research.

Unlike what schools typically see a few weeks after opening day — when bullies zero in on their targets and start getting aggressive — many of reports can be taken as a positive sign. Research show that what you’ll see shortly after winter break are students getting long-festering troubles off their chests so they can enjoy a peaceful, productive second half of the school year.

Why? As it turns out, there’s no place like home for the holidays.

“When the students go home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, they have more chances to speak with their older siblings or other trusted family members,” STOPit Solutions Chief Revenue Officer Neil Hooper said. “Over these breaks, students spend extended time with their family, and for college students in particular, it may have been a number of weeks since they last visited home. They often get the guidance they need over these breaks to understand that what they have been experiencing is not acceptable and they need to report what they have seen.”

Emboldened by these discussions, the students take steps necessary to make things right – talking to teachers, acting as upstanders and yes, anonymously reporting issues. According to Hooper, a review of data submitted to STOPit’s 3,000 school customers shows a brief but very valuable statistical increase in reports in the weeks following the long winter break vs. the average for the year.

“We certainly know that there is stress around the holidays, and that not everyone’s holiday break is positive,” Hooper said. “This family stress can be a source of reporting. However, the largest impact of a holiday break is positive.”

STOPit helps ensure that the act of reporting does not add to students’ stress. The mobile app was designed to feel as familiar as possible to today’s generation of digital natives, functioning and appearing just like a text message. Users can count on the knowledge that their conversations will remain completely anonymous, until or unless they choose to identify themselves. For schools that don’t have the staff available to respond to STOPit reports on holidays and other off hours, STOPit also offers a 24/7 monitoring service.

Those assigned to administer STOPit in their schools can return from the break prepared to take advantage of the windfall of information and act to address issues that were kept out of their view.

“School administrators should not only be ready for their return, but this opportunity should be cherished,” Hooper said. “Encouraging students to open up and let their parents be parents, and encouraging students to reflect with their family is an important process. Let’s not forget that helping students is not just for the schools, but for the parents as well.”

This post-holiday surge is just one example of the important, nationwide trends being gleaned through data collected by STOPit schools across the country. In addition to these universal insights, individual schools can also benefit from analytics particular to their own, unique community. Using the STOPit Admin tool, schools can easily identify trends impacting their own students, allowing counselors and educators to prepare and respond to potential opportunities and challenges in the way best suited for their special school community. And with a suite of carefully curated social-emotional learning content now available through the mobile app, schools can easily make positive content available to their students to help them build resiliency on topics most impactful to that student community.

Call us to learn more about how educators are using the insights from STOPit analytics to provide better protection for their students.

The Scars We Can’t See: Neuroscience Proves That Adolescents Are Most At-Risk For Long-Term Consequences of Bullying & Abuse

Even those of us who don’t remember typewriter ribbon and mobile phone deals that included free night and weekend minutes can probably summon up a mental picture of the ineffable James Dean, astride his motorcycle like he owns the world in Rebel Without a Cause, or maybe even hum a few bars of Don’t You Forget About Me from The Breakfast Club. The focus in both these iconic productions rests squarely on the fearless, oftentimes reckless and always passionate energy of their adolescent heroes.

Teenagers and their tumultuous coming-of-age stories are represented throughout history in all art forms all over the world, and for good reason — adolescence is universally recognized as a time during human development of great promise…as well as great consequence.

Few people understand that dichotomy as well as Dr. Jennifer Fraser, PhD, an expert in applied neuroscience who is changing the way bullying is perceived, understood, and treated. Neuroscience is proving the dramatic, and deeply troubling, psychopathological effects that bullying has on the developing brain, and Fraser is leveraging this growing body of research to speak directly to the adults who she feels are most able to do something positive to stop the bullying epidemic and help young brains heal.

“My work focuses on adults, on training adults who are in frequent contact with or who work with adolescents — educators, coaches, medical staff, parents, law enforcement,” she said recently in an interview with STOPit’s CRO, Neil Hooper. “They all need to know that their words and behavior have a tremendous emotional impact on these radically developing brains — even more than with younger children,” she said.

All In The Head: The Real Damage Of Humiliating, Abusive Words On The Adolescent Brain

The teenage years are a time of intensive growth in brain development — paralleling that of the toddler years– and data suggests that the experience of chronic victimization during adolescence induces psychopathological deviations from normal brain development. In other words, a physical change to the brain — literally forming scar tissue, causing shrinkages and other deformities that could change the way these future adults will learn, think and behave. “The fact is that chronic bullying, or worse emotional abuse done by adult, leaves an indelible imprint because it affects hormones, reduces connectivity in the brain, and sabotages new neurons’ growth,” said Fraser.

Neurological studies have found that persistent bullying in high school is not only emotionally traumatizing, it also causes real and lasting damage to the developing young brain. In fact, MRIs show that the brain’s pain response to exclusion and taunting is remarkably similar to its reaction when the body is physically hit or burned.

recent European study that was published in Molecular Psychiatry on teenage brain development and mental health followed 682 young people between the ages of 14 and 19, and tallied 36 in total who reported experiencing chronic bullying during these years. When the researchers compared the excessively bullied participants to those who had experienced less intense bullying, certain sections of the brains of the bullied participants appeared to have actually shrunk in size – a change similar to adults who have experienced severe early life physical stress, such as child abuse.

“I try to explain to them (adults) how we’ve created this bullying culture with our children; in sports, in the performing arts; in academic competition, by modeling our own, shaming, aggressive behavior, and then we turn around in school assemblies and TV spots and tell them not to do it. That’s obviously not working. Too often, these changes – these scars – are programming their brains to perpetuate the abuse and trauma they experienced on others.”

In one of many examples Fraser cites to prove her point, the world renowned educator points to the case of Rutgers University basketball coach, Mike Rice, fired for relentlessly bullying kids on his team; hurling insults, questioning their loyalty, sexual identity and abilities. One student in particular repeatedly felt the lash of the coach’s taunts, laced with homophobic slurs and rants, but it took repeated reports by Assistant Coach, Eric Murdock and finally his handing over of a video of Rice’s abuse to ESPN in order to protect the student-athletes.

“This bullying culture is so deeply embedded in our society, even the most obvious examples are too often shrugged off as part of growing up, perverse rites of passage necessary to “toughen up” children for successful adulthood and motivate them to push past pain to “be their best”. This awful behavior is normalised and dismissed — but it’s not normal behavior,” she said emphatically. “None of this makes any child stronger, smarter, more artistic, or more athletic. It just harms his or her brain, and it might be permanent,” Fraser said.

Leveraging Neuroscience and Social-Emotional Learning to Change Culture

But as with every challenge, there are solutions — if we are willing to find them and determined enough to use them.

In her previous book, Teaching Bullies and her forthcoming book “The Bullied Brain: What Neuroscience Can Teach Us About Brain Scars and How To Heal Them”, Fraser presents a realistic approach to reversing the epidemic of bullying. In this book and in her work as an educator and consultant, Fraser emphasises the importance of SEL, or social-emotional learning, as well as the need to flip-the-script when it comes to reporting bullying and harassment.

“Social-emotional learning — including content and activities that emphasize cooperation, strengths-based motivation and empathy — is one of our greatest, underutilized tools in remaking our culture,” she said. “If we adults make SEL ubiquitous in all disciplines, activities and at all ages — we’ll be pushing a new norm and make bullying a marginalized behavior.”

One component of social-emotional learning is practicing courage — including the courage to speak up for someone in trouble. Fraser believes that every organization should provide an anonymous reporting tool to everyone in that organization, and that there is as much value in a manager or staff member’s ability to report bullying and harassment as there is in empowering a victim to reach out for help.

“In the example of Mike Rice at Rutgers,” Fraser said, “there were several adults – professionals who were mid-level managers or staff who were witnesses and wanted to speak out, but they felt powerless or afraid to go public with their concerns. Tools like the STOPit Solutions reporting app could have made all the difference in this case by empowering both the victims and the adult bystanders to speak up and demand early intervention and resolution.”

Fraser and like-minded colleagues at STOPit are forming strategic partnerships across the globe to bring together the research, tools and leadership critical to understanding the problems and to implementing solutions. Fraser is helping STOPit build a robust library of SEL content, grounded in positive psychology and neuroscience, that organizations can choose to share with their communities — content that directly addresses their own, distinct needs and concerns. STOPit is helping Fraser and others share stories showing how those who report bullying and harassment are heroes — not snitches — and demonstrate how upstanders save lives and protect what’s best in an organization’s culture.

In Fraser’s newly completed online course End Bullying and Abuse Academy, she foregrounds the STOPit reporting app as one of her eight “Rs.” Her eight courses analyze how organizations fail to use SEL and reporting as an early-warning system to keep administrators aware of whether their culture is healthy or showing signs of toxicity. Fraser’s courses teach that at the heart of a healthy system is SEL knowledge, neuroscientific insights and an effective reporting system.

“We have the brain power to make a paradigm shift from the passive acceptance of bullying and abuse to actively practicing empathy and compassion,” said Fraser. “Your corporation, business, schools or sports organization will be more successful once you make that shift. That’s not opinion. It’s grounded in extensive neuroscientific research.”

Call STOPit now to learn more about how communities and school districts are using the innovative app to build resiliency, safety, and deliver mental health first aid to individuals and organizations around the world.

How Workplaces Are Integrating Data and Anonymous Reporting To Satisfy Compliance Requirements and Improve Company Culture

Time will tell, but employers may look back at 2018 as the year we finally got honest about the impact of harassment and intimidation in the workplace. Using social media as a megaphone, professionals from Hollywood to Main Street proclaimed “no more” to misconduct that had long been pervasive in every industry and nearly every office building. Norms for what’s considered acceptable behavior have evolved, and employers are looking forward to take better advantage of tools that educate their staff, empowering them to address issues before they become problems. Companies that don’t are taking unnecessary risks.

And while there’s been no shortage of headlines about events of the past in the #MeToo era, Roger Duffield, President of in2vate, believes the vast majority of executives want to put protections in place for the future of their corporations. They just don’t always know how.

“I don’t think the right information is getting to decision makers,” Duffield said. “They’re ready to take positive steps, but they don’t have the right data. If they can see what they need to do, they’ll do it.”

The Solution: Introducing Enterprise Risk Technology

More and more business leaders are taking those positive steps with the deployment of enterprise risk technology, software that can help companies assess their current culture, identify areas for improvement, gather information from employees with anonymous reporting apps like STOPit, implement best practices for conforming with regulations, and train employees on timely topics.

In2vate was one of the first providers of valuable services and it’s leveraged its experience and integration with STOPit to create a customizable and scalable software package that is particularly effective for businesses with distinct corporate cultures.

“Companies need a risk-management solution that over-delivers on their need for information and plugs them into easy to implement, cost effective solutions,” said Duffield.

The effectiveness of enterprise risk technology was proven recently when an in2vate customer, an insurer with over 200 government clients in its pool, needed to perform an audit on all of their policies and handbooks and identify documents and forms in need of an immediate update as well as urgent training needs.

In2vate developed a 30-question survey and a simple interface that allowed the agencies to upload their documents and collect specific, actionable information for each organization. Within 45 days, they had nearly 90 percent participation — highly unusual for large-scale assessment projects — and all the information necessary to match every one of the participants with tools and resources they needed to accomplish all their compliance and organizational management goals.

“We were amazed at the level of disclosure that the clients provided,” Duffield said. “It would have taken them years to collect the data with any other method.”

Powering Up Data with Anonymous Reporting

When it comes to data collection for risk assessment, companies are recommending anonymous reporting as another opportunity to collect valuable data.

Now offering an anonymous reporting option to employees, organizations and partners like In2vate are taking proactive steps to ensure better compliance with legal obligations and, as importantly, encouraging employees to feel safe and empowered to report malfeasance and harassment. Anonymous reporting services are highly effective for getting real-time, first-person information about workplace warning signals as well as threats, helping managers identify and address workplace problems before they take root and ultimately preserving an office’s positive atmosphere.

STOPit Solutions is in2vate’s provider of choice in anonymous reporting and incident management. STOPit’s reporting and investigation tools are a natural fit with in2vate’s philosophy of reporting, investigating and taking action. “STOPit and in2vate help deliver critical data into the hands of decision makers so they can implement necessary changes,” Duffield said. “Organizations can take advantage of enterprise risk technology to help identify red flags and address them early, and STOPit can help with that.”

The More You Know

Duffield is quick to point out to clients that though the right data and the right tools to collect that information are vital, “Continuous improvement depends on continuous learning. A company who wants to maximize results takes the results of reporting and assessment and then connects management and employees with education content rooted in proven, actionable solutions.”

For instance, in2vate offers its clients some of its industry-specific and legal content through weekly bulletins covering topics ranging from sexual harassment and discrimination to what goes in a personnel file. It’s a cost-effective means for ensuring first-line managers and supervisors are up to speed on critical workplace issues.

They also offer comprehensive training content that’s delivered online. All modules are developed using established, best-practices, like TRAC (Teamwork • Respect • Awareness • Communication) – is a multi-purpose workplace module for all employees that reinforces efforts to prevent workplace wrongdoing and makes employees aware of issues important to organizations, such as tolerance and diversity. Sensitivity Basics is another highly utilized module about what sensitivity is and what it is not. Topics include sexual insensitivity, stereotyping, and faith in the workplace. The company also curates an easy-to-search Legal Synopsis library with hundreds of articles covering a wide range of topics.

Thanks to its partnership with STOPit, in2vate provides its knowledge content for STOPit’s Resource Center, an online library for STOPit clients that helps organization administrators address issues efficiently and effectively based on best practices and professionally researched content. So far, in2vate has provided over 1,000 articles to assist administrators via the library of STOPit Premium Resources. Customers from enterprises through public school districts get enormous value out of being able to address employee and student concerns with the help of this content, all from within the STOPit Admin console.

Call STOPit today to learn more about how companies are using mobile technology to promote and protect their corporate cultures.

Goodwill and Peace of Mind in New Mexico: How Public Safety Leaders Partnered with Citizens to Give The Gift of a Safer Community

This holiday season, Bloomfield, New Mexico is proving why it’s known as “the little city with a big heart.”

Home to nearly 8,000 people, Bloomfield has long been admired for its rich history and community spirit. Considered the heart of the four corners and gateway to the internationally recognized Quality Waters just below Navajo Dam, it’s also a destination for people who want to visit its national treasures, including Mesa Verde National Park, Salmon Ruins, Aztec Ruins, and Chaco Culture National Historic Park.

And, true to its character, its residents and public servants also have a notable history of being proactive when it comes to identifying and implementing innovative, pragmatic solutions to promote the health and welfare of the people who live and work within its city limits.

So it’s no surprise that Bloomfield is one of the first municipalities in New Mexico to adopt mobile technology as part of a strategy to safeguard its residents and businesses.

No Time Like the Present

Then

It was a typical evening in August, warm and dry, but this was no typical meeting of the Bloomfield, NM Neighborhood Watch. Packed into the meeting room, residents and business owners gathered to talk about something they’d been waiting for for a long time — a restart to the Neighborhood Watch program.

Of all the things that distinguish Bloomfield, the city certainly is not remarkable for a higher-than-average crime rate — but citizens weren’t content to sit back and ‘hope for the best’ going forward. They and their public safety officials were determined to be proactive and take positive steps to promote even greater security and safety.

That evening, in addition to the traditional, tried and true tactics of citizen watch programs, Interim Chief Randon Matthews introduced a brand new tool for those in attendance to consider; a mobile reporting app — available right on their phones — giving everyone the power to report suspicious activity, capture photographic and video evidence if possible, and send it directly to their district officer representative for immediate action. And the best part — citizens could remain completely anonymous if they chose to, making it safe to report and easy to be involved.

When the demo wrapped up, the energy and excitement was palpable — nearly everyone agreed that Bloomfield needed this tool — and sooner than later.

So, rather than wait and advocate for the cost of launching the reporting app to be added into the next budget, two residents, Debbi Vavra and Lisa Webb of Guild Mortgage, offered to underwrite the immediate purchase of the tool.

STOPit was rolled out in a soft-launch to Bloomfield residents later that month.

Now

Since officially launching STOPit in October, Bloomfield has already started seeing impressive results.

In addition to a foiled kidnapping, the recovery and return of multiple stolen cars, as well as several high-profile felony arrests for drug related offenses — citizens are using the STOPit app every day to help their law enforcement partners to stop crime and help preserve law and order.

Citizens are excited that they have such a powerful tool to connect with their neighborhood law enforcement partners. When someone sees an issue — anything from a suspicious person, to suspected animal abuse — they can easily, safely gather evidence and anonymously share that information with police to help confront and address threats.

Another significant benefit of the reporting app is that law enforcement is feeling more and more connected with those they serve — and trusted. They’re reporting text conversations with people on the other end that show citizens appreciate knowing that they’re getting real-time responses from the police department. The community is excited to be able to assist police officers.

A Two Way Street: Communication Helps People Be Vigilant and Stay Safe

At about the same time Bloomfield began investigating options for providing an anonymous reporting tool to empower their community, the Little City With a Big Heart, also re-dedicated itself to build a robust social media presence. “Our Interim Chief, Randon Matthews, feels strongly that an active, proactive social media presence is an important part of the conversation we need to be sharing with our residents, business owners and wider community,” said Suzanne Moore, Administrative Supervisor for the Bloomfield New Mexico Police Department. “One of the many things we love about the STOPit app is that it allows us to reach out to our residents and community with tips and alerts to help us all stay better connected and safer. This is a great complement to our social media campaigns.”

Visit them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, and you’ll see plenty of positive messages, like the one to “Remember your #9pmroutine,” — messages that promote public safety and remind us of good, old common sense ways to keep ourselves and our neighborhoods strong and safe.

“Especially during the winter holidays, we are more likely let the stresses of the season distract us from our usual vigilance — giving would-be thieves and other bad actors more opportunity to do damage and inflict harm,” cautions Moore.

Follow these tips from the Bloomfield PD to enjoy a safer, happier holiday season.

For information about bringing the STOPit Solution to your community, call now and speak with one of our public safety solutions experts.

It’s Holiday Party Time at the Office, and Rudolph Isn’t Taking Any More Nonsense at the Reindeer Games

The holidays are here. Peace and goodwill are pushed pretty heavily during a retail season that screams for our attention, but these sensibilities should be important to us year-round at work and home.

While holiday bonuses and home-baked cookies can go a long way in spreading the holiday cheer at work, an anonymous reporting system is a gift that can simplify employee communications and help make the office a better place.

After all, ’tis the season for bad behavior at office parties. Or worse, the parties after the office parties.

Naughty or Nice?

The holidays give co-workers a chance to let their guard down and spend time together in a purely social atmosphere. Relaxing around the table with drinks, they talk about things and show sides of themselves that they normally wouldn’t with colleagues – for better or worse.

Sometimes the situation gets out of hand. A manager makes an inappropriate sexual advance toward a subordinate. A blowup breaks out between colleagues who don’t get along. Someone uses or offers a co-worker illegal drugs.

Other times it’s less blatant. An insensitive — even if not mal-intended — gesture like a forced hug, off-color joke, political rant, a remark about someone’s appearance, or pressuring someone to drink more can be taken with great offense.

Come Monday morning, it’ll fall to the company HR professionals to sort through the conflicting and sometimes exaggerated versions of a story and an attempt to render fair consequences, often leaving no one satisfied and all feeling victimized. For an employer getting wind of these incidents, the headaches are such that it may be tempting to drop them — after all, oftentimes these parties are held outside of the office and after hours.

But that could be a costly mistake.

The bad feelings from these conflicts can become corrosive to office morale, leading to low productivity and turnover. Reputations hang in the balance as rumors spread and mutate with each retelling.

“With today’s millennials, if they don’t like their work environment, they will leave and find another job,” said Neil Hooper, Chief Revenue Officer for STOPit Solutions. “Employment rates are high and so are turnover rates. It’s important to create the kind of environment that allows you to keep your employees, and quite frankly, enables you to get rid of the toxic employees.”

An anonymous reporting system for workplace issues can help achieve that by encouraging bystanders to become Upstanders with smart tech solutions delivered right into their hands.

Most of the time workers want to do the right thing and share information that can alert management to problems in the office or clear the name of a co-worker who’s being unfairly maligned. However, they don’t always feel comfortable getting involved. The STOPit app gives everyone a safe way to be courageous – to protect their colleagues’ reputations with the facts, and without any fear of reprisal.

And when facts and context are important to resolving issues — which is always — anonymous reporting is a valuable asset for company compliance officers and human resource administrators, too. Often tasked with the responsibility for creating and promoting this more ideal workplace, administrators appreciate having better access to information sources who can help them sort out facts from intentional or unintentional hyperbole as they consider the appropriate, fair, and timely response to incidents.

It can be particularly helpful in industries like retail and restaurants that see a seasonal spike in business and handle it by pushing employees to work longer hours and adding temporary staff — all serving increasingly stressed and anxious customers. When you mix the ultra-busy pace of work with an influx of new and unfamiliar personalities, and add in consumer angst, the result can be a tense environment that ignites conflicts between workers. Particularly for businesses with multiple locations or with a workforce that communicates primarily through their mobile phones, communication can be especially challenging, and apps like STOPit empower everyone with one, seamless, easy to administer reporting solution.

Baking in the Holiday Blues

It is also well known that the holidays are a time when personal stress and depression levels spike. Everyone is especially vulnerable this time of year, making it even more important to have a communications outlet like STOPit on standby in the workplace.

An American Psychological Association survey exploring the causes of holiday stress found that 67 percent of respondents saw lack of time as a major factor, 62 percent cited lack of money, 47 percent the pressure of giving/getting gifts, and 35 percent the fear of raising their credit card debts. A worker who is feeling the strain from any of those things could at least partially hold their employers or their co-workers to blame. If they’re harboring hard feelings toward their job, an office party could be combustible.

“It’s a common sitcom scenario where a young employee drinks too much and they finally say what they mean to their boss,” Hooper said. “That’s funny in a sitcom, maybe not so funny in real life. Sometimes employees are crying out and they need to chance to share what’s really going on in the workplace.”

With all of that said, there is no better time than the holidays for employers to think and act positively and start setting goals for the future. For as much as Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are opportunities for reflection and celebrating the year’s accomplishments, the final holiday season of the year is all about looking ahead.

“I think a great New Year’s resolution is to have 2019 be the year that we finally put a stop to bad behavior in the workplace,” Hooper said.

To learn more about how Human Resource professionals are using STOPit to improve company culture and make incident reporting and management easier, call and schedule your demo.

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.

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