When did your organization launch and why?
The idea grew out of Anne Collier’s nearly 20 years’ work in youth online safety. She knew, from following the research and her work on three national task forces, that schools were struggling with how to deal with cyberbullying and other problems students face in digital media. She also knew from her work with educators and risk prevention experts that though there are many resources available to schools on the prevention side of online risk, there was very little on the intervention side of the problem. That’s what iCanHelpline.org is for.
What does your organization do? What are it’s main goals? Main projects?
We help schools with cyberbullying when it happens. If it’s in the form of a fake profile made to embarrass someone, cruel comments, photos posted to harass a student, abusive tweets, etc. we can help schools get the content removed. A lot of learning can happen through that process. Of course we help with all kinds of negativity that turns up online. Our main goal is
just to provide the kind of help and clarity that increases students’ online safety and supports adults’ digital media literacy and restorative practices in schools.
What makes your organization stand out? What would you say is the most unique thing about your organization?
We stand out because there is no other service like this for schools in the U.S. There are youth-serving Internet helplines throughout Europe and in Australia and New Zealand, but none here until iCanHelpline.org launched. Also, our work is made possible by the relationships we have with the social media services young people use most. As for other hotlines, the U.S. has many outstanding specialized ones for dating abuse, the Trevor Project’s hotline for LGBT youth, CrisisTextline.org for mental health support, and the Suicide Prevention Lifeline for depression and suicidal thoughts but they’re focused on offline problems. We refer to them while focusing on the online part of what’s happening on the ground.
What are recent projects or new resources that your organization would like to share with other NAMLE members?
We’re excited to let your members know about our new Web site www.icanhelpline.org and low-cost, easy-to-start subscriptions for schools nationwide. It’s just $300/school for a year’s subscription, paid for with a school credit card in our site. Discounts are certainly available for district-wide subscriptions, but anyone in a school community can donate this service from an anonymous donor to a PTO or PTA to their school.
What are the connections between the work of your organization and media literacy?
We’re NAMLE members ourselves, of course because we’re huge believers in the protective power of media literacy, needed more than ever now in the digital age. When people hear “digital media,” they tend to default to “digital literacy.” It’s important, but it’s not enough in today’s very social media environment. Anne served on the 2014 Aspen Task Force on Learning & the Internet, which called for instruction in the “three literacies of the digital age,” so she believes strongly that media literacy and social literacy are every bit as essential as digital literacy for safe, successful navigation of today’s media environment (and life in the digital age). That’s the thinking we bring to our work with educators.
If anyone’s interested in learning more about Internet helplines, they can click to “What’s a social media helpline?” in our site. And this page describes the people behind the organization. We were thrilled to be recognized by the National School Boards Assoc. as one of six organizations in their 2016 Ed Tech Innovation Showcase. iCanHelpline.org is a project of The Net Safety Collaborative, a national nonprofit organization founded to develop and create our social media helpline for U.S. schools. TNSC works in partnership with #ICANHELP, our sister organization focused on training powerfully kind digital leaders.