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iTwixie’s Twixing Relaunch: Keeping Our Girls Safe & Strong
April 15, 2010
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Dear Parents,

iTwixie girls are a wonderful example of what iTwixie is all about. The iTwixie Nation is proving that today’s girls are savvy, curious, expressive and strong. These are the things we hoped to spotlight as part of our mission in launching iTwixie! It truly is becoming an iTwixie Revolution!

We are delighted with every girl’s participation! With the highly anticipated relaunch of iTwixie’s Twixing, we reach out to you directly, hoping to clarify why we have relaunched Twixing as a paid feature on iTwixie.com.

As we continue in our public BETA phase of iTwixie, we have learned two powerful things:

1.  No Technology is as Good as a Trained iTwixie Moderator.
Last year, when we tested iTwixie’s Twixing, we found that no technology was as effective at moderating this online chat as a professionally-trained adult. Girls are smart! If they want to get a phone number posted, even with a technically-advanced tool to screen it out, they will! Moreover, if they want to get a message to other girls that might not be postitive and empowering, it’s easy to trick a technologically-programmed filter to miss the nastiness! So we decided we would always have our specially-trained empowerment moderator, iTwixieAdmin, participate in Twixing, every single session.

2. Modeling Respect, Hospitality and Positive Examples is Powerful!
Over the past several months, we have observed something even more powerful: the positive impact iTwixieAdmin and the iTwixie Nation is having on kids who join iTwixie. Once in a while, a girl joins iTwixie and exhibits a lot of negative or off-putting attitude, only to find herself embraced by the iTwixie community! These girls quickly transform into delightful iTwixie members — or even a leader of hospitality — on iTwixie. It’s been an incredible phenomenon to observe and we have committed ourselves to fostering it further.

3. Finally, in today’s world, more and more kids experience bullying online. At iTwixie, we decided not to take the chance of putting our girls at risk by offering a publicly-available online chat, like many available today. By offering Twixing as a paid feature, we know that will help filter out any unsavory characters from joining in. Moreover, with  iTwixieAdmin as an active participant on Twixing, we can ensure we offer every girl a positive voice, role model and moderator for safety, so parents can feel confident that their daughters will not experience bullying or inappropriate comments when they are Twixing! This is a powerful promise that we are proud to offer to all iTwixie girls.

Now of course, in addition to the above, we discussed our mission and vision with the FTC and TRUSTe, two of our nation’s most prominent watchdog organizations for child safety online. They encouraged us to gain a better indicator of a parent’s permission for iTwixie Twixing membership, than any form that could be duplicated or feigned by a child. The credit card swipe and nominal payment is a method of ensuring that each girl joining iTwixie Twixing has the permission and attention of her parent or guardian.

Why $2.99/month?
This fee helps offset the services we are providing via Twixing. We had hoped that $2.99 would not be cumbersome to families, but we would love to hear your thoughts! Please send them to feedback@itwixie.com!

This is how we found ourselves in need of a technology that would allow us to easily moderate the chat without taking away the fun.  We’ve believe we have found that technology; we’ve identified the skill set in iTwixieAdmin for empowered, safe fun; and now we’re relaunching Twixing as a paid membership. This supports what we believe is the most empowering, online chat available today – at a better value than what we’ve found on other “paid for” sites, which do not provided a moderator in the chat, and certainly do not offer a role model of empowerment for our girls.

Please remember, everything else about iTwixie is still free.  It is only Twixing which requires a paid membership.

If you have any other concerns please let us know. We appreciate your comments and hope to exceed your expectations in providing ongoing high quality content, empowerment and fun that we offer on iTwixie.

And now it seems appropriate to share with you some tips from Michele Borba, iTwixie’s Parenting Expert. Her take on today’s online world and its impact on our kids is apparent here, and has had a direct influence on our decision to launch Twixing as we have.  We hope her tips prove helpful to you and again, welcome any and all feedback!

Here’s to the power of our girls,

iTwixie

 

Michele Borba Blog: 9 Signs of Cyberbullying You Must Watch Out For in Kids

Posted: April 7th, 2010 by Michele Borba

 

What Parents Must Know to Prevent Another Tragedy and Save Our Children

Over the last few months we’ve read about horrific tragedies – bullycides — that appear prompted by relentless  peer bullying. Phoebe Prince, a fifteen-year old Massachusetts high school student, committed suicide. South Hadley High Principal Daniel Smith called Prince “smart, charming, and as is the case with many teenagers, complicated .... We will never know the specific reasons why she chose to take her life,” Boston.com reported. But we do have one clue: friends and school officials confirmed that she had been taunted by peers via text messages, Facebook and other social networking sites since moving from Ireland last year.

Horrific. Sad. Heart-wrenching. There really are no adequate descriptors. We’ve read of too many of our children who have ended their young lives due to vicious online (yes, and offline) peer cruelty. I carry with me a photo of a young Canadian boy — a precious sixth grader — who ended his life because of bullying. His father gave me his son’s photo and asked me to never stop doing what I do.

“Keep talking about empathy,” the dad said. “If someone had heard your message I know my son would be alive today. It would have saved him.”

I promised that dad I would keep going. But it seems we have an even tougher battle these days. Kids are crueler and at younger ages. Let’s get our heads out of the sand and realize we’re not doing a good enough job in nurturing our children’s empathy and creating cultures of compassion.

And so let’s get educated, folks. It’s our first big step to turn this around. These are serious lessons — they might save a child. Please read carefully. Watch your child and how he responds. Not one more death!

What is Cyberbullying?

So we’re clear, cyberbullying is an electronic form of communication that uses cyber-technology or digital media to hurt, threaten, embarrass, annoy, blackmail or otherwise target another minor. Every adult who interacts with kids–parents, educators, librarians, police, pediatricians, coaches, child care givers–must get educated about this lethal new form bullying so you can find ways to stop this.

One reason for such a dramatic increase in cyber-abuse is that it’s just so much easier to be cruel when you don’t have to do lash out your vicious insinuations face to face! Where we once thought we just had to protect children from adult predators using the Internet, we now need to shield kids from one another.

Cyber-bullying is real. Incidents are happening at an increasing rate. National surveys by online safety expert, Parry Aftab, estimate that 85 percent of 12 and 13-year olds have had experience with cyber bullying; 53 percent say they have been bullied online.

Many experts confirm that the psychological effects on our children can be as devastating, and may be even more so than traditional bullying. If you have any doubt, just look at the precious face of Phoebe Prince! Research proves that when kids are left unsupervised and without behavior expectations traditional bullying thrives. And we may not be doing as good a job as we think.

One survey found that while 93 percent of parents feel they have a good idea of what their kids are doing on the Internet; 41 percent of our kids say they don’t share with us what they do or where they go online.

9 Possible Signs and Symptoms of Cyberbullying To Look for In Your Children

Research also says that chances are that your child will not tell you he is harassed online. As our children get older studies also show the likelihood declines even more. One big reason: our kids say we did not listen or believe them when they did come and tell us. So get educated. Tune into your children closer. Look for these possible signs of cyber bullying though there are others. And if they are not due to cyberbullying they clearly warrant looking into. Something is amiss with your child!

  • Hesitant to be online; nervous when an Instant Message, text message or Email appears
  • Visibly upset after using the computer or cell phone or suddenly avoids it
  • Hides or clears the computer screen or closes cellphone when you enter
  • Spends unusually and longer hours online in a more tense pensive tone
  • Withdraws from friends, falls behind in schoolwork’s or wants to avoid school
  • Suddenly sullen, evasive withdrawn, marked change in personality or behavior
  • Trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, excessively moody or crying, seems depressed
  • Suspicious phone calls, e-mails and packages arrives at your home
  • Possible drop in academic performance

Your goal is to keep a good ongoing dialogue with your child so she will feel comfortable telling you if something bad happens online or elsewhere. You are your child’s best filter both on and off line Build a relationship of trust and then listen carefully to what your kids say about their online experiences. Let your child know you believe her and will not stop until she feels safe. Also be clear that you want to know if your child receives an inappropriate message (that goes for both on and offline).

This tragedy should be a wake-up call that our children need more specific guidance, developmentally appropriate supervision, and clear expectations for the wide, wide web.

Get educated. Get active! Get your community involved. And please watch for those signs.

No child should ever be allowed to send or receive cruelty! EVER!

Phoebe Prince.

For specific solutions to Cyberbullying, Bullying, Relational Aggression, Anger, Anxiety, Internet Safety, Cell Phone Use and other such issues, refer to The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries. This blog was adapted from the chapter on Cyberbullying. For more updates on late-breaking news and parenting solutions, go to my website, Michele Borba or follow me on twitter @MicheleBorba.


85 percent of 12 and 13-year old kids have had experience with cyber bullying: Based on personal conversations with Parry Aftab, New York City, June 2-3, 2008.

93 percent of parents feels they have a good idea of what their kids say they do online; 41 percent of kids say we don’t: Survey by i–SAFE America: “National Assessment Report: The effectiveness and measureable results of Internal Safety Education”: 2005-2006.

Cyberbullying definition: Electronic form of communication that uses cyber-technology or digital media to hurt, threaten, embarrass, annoy, blackmail or otherwise target another minor, by Parry Aftab, “The STOPcyberbullying Toolkit Guide for Parents,” http://wireforsafety, 2008.

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