App deals with online behaviour

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PAM.JONES

@alliedpress.co.nz

A free app to help support positive behaviour online has the potential to “really make a difference” in the online world, the student who developed the idea says.

Keryn Tubbs (19) came up with the idea for “Icon” after an anonymous Instagram page that embarrassed other pupils was set up when she was in her final year at Dunstan High School, two years ago.

Miss Tubbs, then a member of the anti-cyber bullying group Sticks ‘n Stones (SNS), was approached by many of her peers at the time for support and she managed to get “Nudes 101” – which shared photos sent privately on a public page – taken down.

But she said she worried about what other teens did when they did not know how to deal with online hate, negativity and harm. She started planning what an app for teens could look like, developed “by them, for them”.

Miss Tubbs, with the support of other SNS members, successfully applied for $15,000 from the Vodafone Foundation and about $43,000 from Netsafe to develop Icon.

She project-managed the development of the app, in partnership with SNS, and Icon was launched at a function at Columba College in Dunedin on Friday.

Miss Tubbs, now a second-year law student at Victoria University, said it was “surreal” to see the app finally launched, and she hoped it would make a difference in the online world.

Her work with SNS has previously been recognised with a range of awards, including a New Zealand Youth Week leadership award, and a New Zealander of the Year Local Hero Medal.

She was also the Waitaki Youth MP in 2016, and has spoken at international conferences in Australia and Ireland.

The launch of Icon was attended by the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media, Clare Curran.

Ms Curran said she applauded the work of SNS to “build awareness and capability among young people about staying safe online” and Icon would “provide practical guidance and support to our young people who are dealing with negative and harmful online messages”.

“The internet and extensive use of connected devices – such as smartphones – provide new and intrusive ways for those who want to deliver nasty, hurtful and abusive messages, and these messages can spread across the internet like wildfire .. Young people live online, and they need support to be able to cope with, and handle, hurtful messages received by text, on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat and other social media.”

One in 10 New Zealanders had experienced an unwanted digital communication but, “sadly”, for young people that figure doubled, she said.

Miss Tubbs said an SNS survey of 1500 young people found that 48% of those who had been bullied in the previous six months had not told anyone what was going on, or sought help from anyone.

She said for most young people time spent online was generally positive.

“When it is not, Icon gives an option to connect them with information, tools, strategies and services that can help them through, and not leave them feeling alone, helpless and humiliated. It is not an alternative to the incredible services already out there, but a way of making sure that teens have the information at their fingertips to connect with them.”

For more information go to www.icon.org.nz