Technology & Science

Facebook app tackles cyber bullying

In the wake of several high-profile cases of cyber bullying, a Denver-based company has created a Facebook application for youth to report violations to Facebook officials and connect to safety and crisis-support organizations.

In the wake of several high-profile cases of cyber bullying, a Denver-based company has created a Facebook application for youth to report violations to Facebook officials and connect to safety and crisis-support organizations.

SafetyWeb's application, launched Monday, links teens to organizations including the U.S.-based National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's CyberTipline, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline and Facebook's abuse reporting process.

SafetyWeb co-founder Michael Clark likens it to an online version of the list of emergency phone numbers parents leave children when they are on their own at home.

Parents can encourage their children to add a bookmark of the application, called Find Help, to their Facebook page. When their child clicks the Find Help application, they are directed to phone numbers and links for reporting incidents.

"So you share the link with your 12-year-old and they install it on their page," says Clark.

While the application currently links only to U.S. organizations, Clark says they offer advice and pointers to teens that can be applied, regardless of where they live.

"And as we get more and more families that are Canadian, or from other countries, we plan to create versions of this that are more localized," he says.

Led to several deaths

The Associated Press reports at least 12 cases in the U.S. since 2003 in which victims between 11 and 18 killed themselves after enduring cyber bullying.

There have also been a number of incidents closer to home where social media tools have been used to humiliate teens. In British Columbia, for example, teens who witnessed the gang rape of a 16-year-old at a large party near Vancouver in September took photos and video, which they posted online.

And in Labrador, the father of a boy who took his life after being bullied for years is touring the area to talk about what happened. The harassment took on many forms, but the most devastating was delivered through the internet.

SafetyWeb, founded in late 2009, made its mark in the United States by creating an internet monitoring service for parents to protect their children's online reputation, privacy and safety.

The company got its start after co-founder Geoffrey Arone was shocked by the kind of information he was able to dig up while conducting college admission interviews. Like many college and university recruiters, Arone perused applicants' social profiles through sites like Facebook and MySpace.

"I was surprised by how the information that was publicly available about these high school students could be potentially damaging to their future college prospects and future job prospects, given that some of the content, photos and language being posted by the applicant did not cast the student in the best light," Arone said in a release.