New app may lead to bullying

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) - The first week of October is designated as a Week of Respect. It's part of an anti-bullying effort here in Nevada. And if you think it doesn't effect you, think again. We have one father's warning for every valley family.

"From my personal experience, words mean life or death," says local father, Jason Lamberth.

He knows better than most. Jason says his 13-year-old daughter Hailee was the victim of bullies at Thurman White Middle School in Henderson. It was a case that was so bad, he says Hailee took her own life in December of 2013. Jason says he found her at home, along with a suicide note, blaming her bullies.

"A lot of parents think your children can never be a target of a bully, or be a bully themself. Anybody can be a target or a bully," says Jason.

He's dedicated himself to warning valley families about the dangers of bullying. Statistics show hundreds of kids are bullied in Clark County each year. And many times victims aren't talking to friends or family about their pain.

"Of all the people who knew Hailee, I thought she's daddy's little girl, I was closest to her. But she never opened up to me about her being the target of bullies," says Jason.

The problem is bullies aren't just at school. Smartphones make it easy for them to strike 24 hours a day.

"Especially with these anonymous social media applications, the cyber bullies can be extremely aggressive," says Jason.

Popular apps like Kik and Whisper offer anonymous messaging. And recently the app Sarahah has attracted a lot of attention. It was originally created as a way for employees to send anonymous feedback and critique their employers. But the app ended up attracting teens. 

"They want to know what other people are thinking of them. They are seeking out that validation," says Heather Doto, Educational Outreach Coordinator at Nevada Child Seekers.

The local nonprofit group sees cases every year of kids running away from home because of bullying. It's a problem that also leads to changes in sleeping or eating habits, a decline in academic performance, depression and in extreme cases, suicide.

"They may think they're strong enough to handle somebody's criticism, critiques. But when they're actually faced with it, it ends up hurting them more than they ever would have imagined," says Heather.

That's why Heather says it's so important to monitor what your kids are doing online. Many filters and apps can help you control and watch what your kids are doing on their smartphones. Don't be concerned about invading their privacy.

"You need to weigh the pros and cons. Because you may be respecting their privacy, but by respecting their privacy, you might be putting them at risk," says Heather.

At the very least, Jason says talk to your kids.

"It's something every parent needs to do with each and everyone of their children immediately," says Jason.

The apps mentioned in our story, tell us they take any act of bullying very seriously. 

Sarahah sent us this statement:
Sarahah aims to create a platform where constructive feedback is enabled in an environment of candor and frankness to all our valued users. We are so gratified that this is highly appreciated by the millions of people using it across the globe. Unfortunately, the possibility of misuse of digital platforms is a challenge facing all these platforms including the major ones. 

Sarahah takes this issue very seriously and We have taken several measures to address this challenge and we will continue to enhance these measures. We greatly value receiving feedback from the users of Sarahah and we we will continue to diligently address any issue they may have.

Kik sent us this statement:
We take online safety very seriously, and we're constantly assessing and improving our trust and safety measures. There are two ways we do this. One is through technology and constant improvements to the product itself. We encourage users to report content that they believe violates the Kik Terms of Service and Community Standards. Users are also able to Block other users they no longer wish to chat with, or ignore chats from people that they don't know. 

Actions are taken against users found to have violated Kik's Community Standards and TOS, including removal from the Kik platform where circumstances warrant.

The other is through education and partnerships with organizations that help adults and teens understand the challenges of today's online landscape and how to avoid bad situations. For years, we've had teams dedicated to this, and we will continue to invest in those types of tools, provide resources to parents, and strengthen relationships with law enforcement and safety-focused organizations. This is a priority for us. We want all users to be safe on Kik and will continue to make Kik a safe, positive and productive place for our users to interact.

Whisper's website says this:
Whisper has a zero tolerance policy for harassment, or any other forms of bullying as outlined by our Terms of Service and our Community Guidelines. If you find a user in violation of our Terms please report them to our Support team and provide us with as much information as possible about the issue (i.e. text within the Chat, screenshots of a user's whisper, the full username, etc.). 

If you feel unsafe or you fear for the safety of any person, and you think law enforcement should know about it, please contact your local law enforcement agency directly and direct them to our Law Enforcement Guide.

Click here to report a case of bullying in the Clark County School District.

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