What a 13-Year-Old Internet Guru Can Teach Us About Cyberbullying
13-year-old Daniel Singer has a stronger grasp on cyberbullying than most of us do—as well as on what we can do about it.
-Piper Weiss, Yahoo! Shine
Zuckerberg’s influence has created new opportunities for a generation raised on the Internet. (To wit, Daniel pitched YouTell to a San Francisco start-up veteran from his L.A. bedroom.) On the flip side, those opportunities for self-expression can lead to dangerous, sometimes tragic outcomes.
I first heard about YouTell—a site that lets users request anonymous feedback from a selected group of peers (“Do you like my haircut?” “Am I being a good friend?”)—the day after tragic news of bullied teen Amanda Todd’s suicide surfaced. The idea of a site designed to provide anonymous criticism seemed like a dangerous weapon in the wrong hands.
But because YouTell was developed by a 13 year old (along with Daniel’s dad Uri Singer, and four other grown-ups), the site is more attuned to both the desires and concerns of the Facebook generation.
For example, Daniel knew that bullies like an audience, so he developed a setting that keeps all feedback private—people can answer, but they can’t see others’ answers, and this discourages ganging-up. This was something he had to fight for while the rest of his team wavered, according to his dad. At the same time, he crafted the site to feed the need for feedback, something that has enraptured young web users since earlier Q&A sites like FormSpring became popular.
In fairness, Daniel isn’t like most eighth graders. He’s got a LinkedIn page most college graduates would envy. He quotes the tech blog Gizmodo, attends programming conventions and describes his site as ideal for “busy single moms” as well as kids. Daniel understands things I didn’t as a 13-year-old, in part because he’s smarter than I was, but also because he’s been raised with the world’s most comprehensive encyclopedia, the Internet.
The day after YouTell launched last week, Daniel spent his free period between classes on the phone with Yahoo! Shine. I asked him what he thinks are the biggest threats kids face online and whether adults are doing enough to keep kids safe.
Daniel’s amazing interview, up next.