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Help us build & pilot a Social Media Helpline for schools! logo

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Hey, everybody! We at NetFamilyNews and iCANHELP would greatly appreciate your help in spreading the word about (and if possible contributing to) our just-launched crowd funding campaign at Indiegogo. We’re in the process of creating a hotline schools can call for help with problems in social media which we’ll pilot this coming school year in California. Please click to our page here.

We’ll help schools navigate sites and apps, report abuse, get to the bottom of an incident that shows up in social media and get content taken down that violates terms of service. This kind of helpline is unprecedented in the US. There are many fine hotlines and helplines in this country, but none are focused on both social media and schools, which deserve help in dealing with cyberbullying and other challenges involving social media. This kind of helpline isn’t unprecedented in the world, however. There are Internet helplines all over Europe and in Australia and New Zealand. Our helpline design is actually modeled on the very successful UK Internet Helpline for schools and other institutions.

icanhelpline pitch infographicThe US’s Social Media Helpline will bring together several worlds that need to work together for real safety to happen: school, social media and Internet safety. The helpline builds on our organizations’ decade and a half each in education and Internet safety. iCANHELP was founded and is run by educators with deep experience in student leadership training, professional development and media education. NetFamilyNews has been involved in Internet safety since 1999; we’ve served on three national task forces, chronicled the youth-online-risk and social-media research as it emerged and continuing to serve on three social media companies’ Safety Advisory Boards.

Here, at a glance, are the Helpline’s key characteristics and services:

  • Call center+: a call-in service and Web resource for schools and districts. In addition to working on social media-related cases, the helpline will serve as an information clearinghouse and growing searchable database of school case studies.
  • Hub of a help ecosystem – draws on and refers to a broad array of US resources for prevention, investigation and policy development. Advised by a board of nationally known risk prevention experts.
  • Open & transparent – for schools’ and parents’ reference and learning, digital abuse cases will be anonymized and made publicly available 24/7/365. The Helpline will also be a source of metrics & trends in school online safety issues for educators, researchers, policymakers and parents; blog will highlight the most instructive cases.
  • Trusted flagger for social media industry. Will provide social media services with much-needed context when abuse is reported and schools with perspective on digital abuse, helping them report content that violates Terms of Service.
  • Part of a global network of helplines that help each other and, with a growing collective knowledge base, help users resolve problems in a global medium.
  • Unique among helplines in approaching students as part of the solution and building on established student leadership education and peer-mentoring practices.
  • Deep Internet safety experience: Builds on 15+ years in the Internet safety
    space, working with practitioners, researchers and fellow NGOs and advising Internet companies such as FB/Instagram, Microsoft, Twitter, Google/YouTube, Snapchat, and Trend Micro. The aim is to be schools’ point of access to a help ecosystem, aggregating resources, research and experience in digital risk prevention and intervention.

whitebg_icon_RGB-01This helpline – and other new ones for social media, such as the US’s new revenge porn hotline and Crash Override Network – are part of a new layer of help that our user-driven media environment now calls for. Social media companies’ User Services teams get hundreds of thousands of abuse reports a week from people all over the world, and they need context. In fact, User Service people have told me that 90% of the abuse reports they get are either “false positives” (mistaken or inaccurate) or abuse reporting being abused (users trying to get other users deleted from the system, sometimes another form of bullying). It’s hard for anyone outside the context of a social group to understand what comments or photos mean to that group in any given moment – right, parents? It’s hard enough for us or other people who know the social media users to know what’s really going on in comments we see.

That’s what this new help layer is for – to help schools or whoever they support get to the bottom of what turns up in social media services and to help the services get context. It’s a much-needed mediation service that helps everybody involved resolve problems. In fact, the Internet helplines in the UK and New Zealand (Netsafe) have recently co-founded the Association of Internet Mediation Services, which our helpline will join as soon as it’s up and running. Please help us get there! Thank you.

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