Anti-cyberbullying website launched to protect women online
Toronto website Webbing With Wisdom was launched for women by women
For Tara Farahani, being cyber-stalked was a suffocating experience.
"No matter how many times you block them, they would create a new account. Then, when you delete your account, they message you on another platform."
Now the 25-year-old is part of the all-woman team behind Webbing With Wisdom, a website aimed at giving women their autonomy back online.
The team used the insights from those women — and their experiences using social media.— to create Webbing With Wisdom.
It's the brainchild of three youth and anti-violence agencies in Toronto: St. Stephen's Community House, METRAC and East Metro Youth Services.
Other help resources were out of touch, teens say
"So we started with basics," said Karen Arthurton, professor of social work at Ryerson University. "How do I stop somebody? How do I report them? Somebody's stalking me, what to I do? How do I safely 'sext' with somebody?"
Arthurton said cyberbullying has amplified since young people gravitate to selfie-driven social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram.
"Most of what was out there was geared toward parents," said Farahani, who would comb through paragraphs of web copy with youths to make sure they got the language right. "'Calm down on the slang,' they would tell us sometimes."
There are subheadings that read, "Bae wants to text, what should I do?" and "Leave me the frig alone, cyberbullying isn't funny business." The advice is written in a casual tone too but contributed by trained social workers and youth counsellors.
'What if I want to sext?'
While this can be seen as controversial advice, it's realistic, says Farahani. "We're a lot about harm reduction, but there is a young person out there who has already sent that sext or who wants to send that sext."
Throughout their work, the Webbing With Wisdom team has heard from many women who say they didn't know where to turn for help — a counsellor or the police.
"There was one woman had shared with me that she told a police officer that someone tweeted her a death threat and the police officer said, 'What's a tweet?'"
The Webbing With Wisdom site is aimed at bridging the gap. They are considering including a live-chat feature where people can ask questions and get immediate answers from trained social service workers.