In doing research for my upcoming book on bullying, I was introduced to the organization WHOA(Working to Halt Online Abuse).
WHOA is a volunteer organization founded in 1997 to fight online harassment through education of the general public, education of law enforcement personnel, and empowerment of victims. The mission of WHOA is to educate the Internet community about online harassment, empower victims of harassment, and formulate voluntary policies that systems administrators can adopt in order to create harassment-free environments. We’ve also formulated voluntary policies which we encourage online communities to adopt in order to create safe and welcoming environments for all internet users.
From haltabusektd.org, the official website for WHOA-KTD:
WHOA Kids/Teen Division is the offshoot of WHOA, a volunteer organization founded in 1997 to fight online bullying, harassment and stalking of kids and teens. We achieve this goal by educating parents, teachers, the general public, law enforcement and others. We let victims know they are not alone. We have formulated voluntary policies for schools and online communities and encourage them to adopt these policies in order to create a safe and welcoming place for all.
Today I have the privilege of interviewing Jayne Hitchcock, the president and co-founder of WHOA.
TM: How was WHOA started?
JH: I was cyberstalked in 1996 and at the beginning of 1997, a friend
introduced me to a Lynda Hinkle, who was also being cyberstalked. We
co-founded WHOA, at that time it was called Women Halting Online
Abuse. When she left in 1999, I took over and changed the name to
Working to Halt Online Abuse, as we were seeing more men coming to us
for help and they were leery because it looked like we only helped
women. We are all-volunteer, including me, and help victims online
anywhere in the world for free.
TM: How did WHOA-KTD come about?
JH: In 2005, we started getting requests for help from parents and
kids/teens, so it was natural to have an offshoot of WHOA to cater to
TM: What are some resources WHOA can provide for victims of cyberbullying/cyberstalking?
JH: In addition to helping victims resolve their cyberstalking
situations, we offer lists of lawyers and private investigators, the
latest in cyberstalking statistics and online safety tips and more!
TM: What are some steps kids and adults can take to prevent cyberbullying/cyberstalking?
JH: You can never prevent it from happening to you, but to minimize the
chance, I offer these tips:
1. Try to use a free email account like Yahoo, Gmail or Hotmal for
your online presence and keep your private email for family and close friends.
2. Make sure your email/username is generic, not too cute or
something that may be frowned upon by a potential employer, school,
or your parents
3. When you join a web site, open a social networking profile, chat
room, message board or group, “lurk” before posting your comments.
Make sure that you feel comfortable and if you don’t, leave and find
another place to socialize! The internet is so vast, it won’t be hard
to find a place where you feel comfortable and safe.
4. Don’t join in online arguments, even if it involves a friend or
family member, or someone you work with. You could end up being the
target of a cyberstalker or bully or it can get out of control and
*you* become the bully or stalker.
5. If you feel you are being stalked or bullied online, respond only
once to the person doing it to you. Write something simple, such as
“Please stop communicating with me.” And don’t respond after that,
but keep anything they may send as evidence, just in case you need to
report it the web site, ISP or police.
6. If you’re being harassed or bullied on Facebook, report the
profile, group or page to Facebook, then block them. Any posts they
made on your wall should be saved as a screenshot, then delete them.
Don’t get caught up in the drama! Facebook never lets the
bully/harasser know who reported them, so you remain anonymous.
7. If it’s gotten out of hand, then come to our organization for
help. Just click on Need Help? on the site and follow the steps from there.
TM: How can people help your organization?
JH: If someone does want to donate money, they can contact me at
firstname.lastname@example.org. We are also always looking for volunteers, just
click on the link on the main page of our web site and fill out an application.
You can get more information on WHOA and WHOA-KTD at the following websites:
You can read more about Jayne Hitchock at her blog:Net Crimes & Misdemeanors.