New App supported by Vodafone gives teens the tools to combat cyberbullying

4 May 2018

Teen-led charity Sticks ‘n Stones (SNS) proudly supported by the Vodafone Foundation, has developed a free web app to help young people dealing with online negativity and harm.

The web app – ICON (In Case of Online Negativity) – has been developed, co-designed and tested by teenagers and SNS members across New Zealand and launched today at an event at Columba College in Dunedin with Minister of Broadcasting, Communications, and Digital Media – Clare Curran.

ICON, comes after more than 18 months of hard work which started with one of the inaugural Vodafone Foundation technology grants late in 2016.

“ICON has been designed by teens for teens, with the belief that young people can make good decisions for themselves, provided they have good information to start with,” SNS member and ICON project manager Keryn Tubbs says. “It offers comprehensive solutions, guides you in your decision and empowers you with the right information you need to take action.”

Sticks ‘n Stones (SNS) CEO, Karla Sanders, says the average teen spends at least two hours online every day. Most of the time their experiences are positive, however when it’s not going well, things can go downhill fast and teenagers often don’t seek help. A 2015 SNS survey of almost 1500 young people aged 12-18 found that 48 percent of those who had been bullied in the previous six months had told noone and not reached out to anyone for support.

Bullying is linked to long lasting negative outcomes including loss of confidence and self esteem, poor mental health and drug or alcohol misuse or abuse.  One in four girls (24%) and nearly one in seven boys (14%) have been asked to share a nude or nearly nude image in the last 12 months, Netsafe research in 2017 showed.

“We created ICON to help young people help themselves early on, before things go really wrong,” Karla says. “It’s a positive, non-judgmental, easy and intuitive option that will help them make decisions, move forward and get on with their lives.”

Available through any web browser at www.icon.org.nz; ICON is a clear, easy to use web app to help teens explore options and troubleshoot online negativity – from nudes and cyberbullying to hate and abuse. It includes more than 25 real life audio stories from young Kiwis about their experiences with online negativity. These are in their own words and show the range of issues being faced by teens today. The app covers everything from the most practical solutions right through to information about your rights and the law related to the situation, and the services that could help.

Keryn, who is now in her second year of a law degree at Victoria University, came up with the idea for ICON after experiencing online negativity firsthand when she was 17.

“There was an anonymous Instagram page set up at my high school to embarrass other students. ‘Nudes 101’ shared photos sent privately on a public page, and it got a lot of attention,” she says.

As a senior member of SNS, a lot of Keryn’s peers at the time turned to her for help and advice. She was able to get the page taken down and offer support to the students who’d had photos shared.

“This got me thinking about what other teens did when they didn’t know where to start or to deal with online hate, negativity or harm,” she says. “It can take young people a really long time to find answers to these types of situations. There’s lots of googling with mixed results, a lot of content or advice has been created by adults and can be kind of judgey so they give up. If they don’t know the help that’s available they can feel helpless - but they don’t have to.”

Keryn says ICON is not a replacement for existing services but a starting point for teens who are not sure where to go for help or where to start.

“It’s not an alternative or replacement for the incredible services already available throughout New Zealand,” Keryn says. “ICON points you in the direction of the tools and services that are out there and that you might not know about, shows you different options depending on your situation and then you make the choices that are right for you at that time.”

She sees ICON as a way for teens to find out about their options, not only when things go wrong but also before things go wrong.

“If it stops one young person from feeling alone and not knowing what they can do then that is awesome.”

ICON has been created with support from Vodafone, Netsafe, Facebook and New Zealand Police. School health nurses, guidance counsellors and other youth-focused services have also been involved to ensure information is accurate and up-to-date.

New App supported by Vodafone gives teens the tools to combat cyberbullying