IVINGSTON, NJ - Livingston resident and LHS graduate, Jonathan Pearl, has developed a globally acknowledged mobile application called STOPit, with is a platform designed as a solution to the growing epidemic of cyber bullying. As a parent of two girls, STOPit COO Pearl says adopting the app is a simple, inexpensive way to ensure a safe environment for the community’s youth.
Already adopted by schools in 13 U.S. states and four different countries, the STOPit application is a tool that empowers students by allowing them to anonymously report any and all instances of bullying. According to Pearl, the program acts like a safety blanket for kids who might be nervous to report their tormenters, but it also acts as a deterrent that Pearl says has been improving behavior in some schools.
During last week’s Town Council meeting, the council expressed an interest in the app. Councilman Edward Meinhardt expressed his support at the meeting and is hoping to get the support of LMAC, the town council, and the BOE moving forward.
“I think any town council should support the use of this app,” Pearl said. “Livingston has a reputation of having an excellent school system, so it’s incumbent upon the town and the BOE to continue to evolve and to provide our kids with every possible tool to stay safe.”
With the touch of a button, students can anonymously submit a picture, screenshot, video or a simple message exposing an incident of harassment, bullying or bad behavior—24/7, seven days a week. Schools that adopt the STOPit app assign a bullying and harassment “point of contact,” such as a guidance counselor, principal, or other administrator, who becomes in charge of organizing and dealing with these documented complaints.
According to Pearl, the significance of adopting the application as a school administrator is twofold: it serves as a reduction in liability and it is a major time saver. Most states require formal cyber-bully compliance reporting, which Pearl says is basically an extra job. Adopting the app would alleviate that obligation, while simultaneously keeping the school from getting sued.
“We are trying to help the administrators just move more quickly toward problems they’re already addressing today,” Pearl said. “It used to be once you got home you were safe. The difference today is that you can be bullied by thousands of people at one time and there’s no escape to online bullying—it’s 24 hours a day.”
Pearl says that bullying is just a part of human interaction—and has been for thousands of years. The difference now, he says, is that the ability to hurt someone is so magnified through social media that it can be absolutely devastating to a child.
In fact, it was the disturbing story of one of these devastated children that inspired CEO Todd Schobel to launch STOPit in Sept. 2014. In 2012, 15-year-old Amanda Todd produced an extensive YouTube video about how bullying had adversely affected her life—ultimately causing her to end it. Todd’s story motivated Schobel to take action and STOPit was born.
STOPit is made up of features like a 24-hour live messenger that allows students to directly and anonymously reach out for help, a 24-hour crisis center and a family option that allows families to purchase an individual version of the app. The program not only helps kids in need, but it also allows administrators to get ahead of these issues to prevent circumstances like Todd’s.
Jeff Mayerson, a 1985 LHS graduate who is in charge of STOPit’s sales, also joined the STOPit team because he was determined to work for a company that is making the world a better place one day at a time. Even though the company provides software that is available to primary schools, universities, workplaces and beyond, Mayerson says it’s the children who often blame themselves for being bullied and need STOPit as a way to stand up to it.
“For a couple of dollars per student, per year, you’re going to protect your kids in the community, protect the students and protect the families from something tragic happening,” Mayerson said. “The more communities that can take a stance against cyber bullying, the better off we would all be.”
According to Mayerson, STOPit sales are increasing every single day since its initiation in 2014. Mayerson, whose main focus is getting more states on board, says some states are passing cyber bullying laws—some of which want to provide a solution as part of the law and have expressed excitement about the STOPit product.
“There are some good products out there, but they do one of the things where we do many things,” Mayerson said. “It mitigates the risk of litigation as well as provides the children with a great way to stand up to cyber bullies.”
Mayerson says the product will be successful because the leadership really believes in and is passionate about the cause. According to Pearl, the fact that the kids using these hand-held devices are getting younger and younger, paired with the fact that many adults don’t know how to handle them, creates a higher demand for the product.
Pearl says that schools spend money on providing clean, safe classrooms, nice sports centers, new books and computers, but often neglect to do anything about this growing problem. According to Pearl, if Livingston Public Schools chooses to adopt the STOPit application, it will be one more step toward creating a secure experience for students.
“The schools that demonstrate a progressive attitude toward this are producing a better learning environment for kids,” says Pearl.
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