Posted Asha Ellison on 7/6/2018 |GOTR Picks
A safe social haven for girls? Yep. It’s a real thing!
In today’s technology-driven world, it’s important for a girl to have a safe space—a place where she can be her authentic self. Miss O and Friends is an online community where girls are free to engage with their peers without fear of cyberbullying, exposure to risky content or having to be anyone other than themselves. The Girl2Girl Wall (there’s an app for this feature) is a virtual hangout where girls can gab about the latest flavors in fashion, food, pop culture, education and more—in secure way.
Why is internet safety so important? Girls on the Run teamed up with Juliette Blake of Miss O and Friends to discuss the benefits of this community as well as the importance of keeping girls safe:
Girls on the Run: Why is internet safety so important for girls today?
Juliette: Because the Internet is a terrifying place! There are so many negative things that girls can see and be a part of online, whether it’s feeling left out for not being tagged in a picture, fighting with a friend in the comments section of someone else’s post, or comparing themselves with the photoshopped influencers they see. It’s important that girls can express themselves online and learn to be confident in who they are, and who they are becoming, without trolls and bullies putting them down.
Back when “internet safety” first became a thing, it was mostly about personally identifiable information and protecting private information, but it’s really evolved into so much more. At a time where girls are so sensitive to what their peers are doing around them and their self-esteem is like a roller coaster, it’s important we protect girls from being negatively targeted and give them a positive community to just be themselves.
"Our YouTube Premium Original Series, Hyperlinked has strong themes of positive female friendship."
Girls on the Run: With social pressure and cyberbullying on the rise, how can parents ensure their daughter’s online safety without compromising her trust or limiting her freedom of expression?
Juliette: Well, you can first have her download the Girl2Girl Wall App! But besides that, it’s important that you know what apps your daughter has and, if she’s on them, you can follow her. She shouldn’t be posting or doing anything on them that she wouldn’t want her mom (or dad, or any other adult) to see. By following her, you are not only helping her maintain a positive social media profile, but also watching out for any bullying or other issues that might occur through it. I suggest making sure her accounts are private so that she can only be friends with people who request her that she knows. I think kids today know the danger of sharing personal information online with people they don’t know, but it’s always important to reinforce that.
My last thought on this issue is that it’s beneficial to keep an open line of communication going with your daughter. That’s obviously something that needs to be built, but if she confides in you about something she did that she knows was wrong online, it’s better to not get mad and let her explain so you can help her move forward with it. Hopefully then, she will come to you when there are issues knowing that you will be supportive and try and help her.
Girls on the Run: What should a girl do if she feels she is being targeted online in a negative way?
Juliette: I would screenshot the messages or comments and then block the person. I would also suggest not responding to them because that only gives them the reinforcement that what they are doing is bothering you (which is most likely their goal). It’s never worth engaging with any sort of hater or troll. If it’s someone you know, and it happens more than once, definitely talk to your parent, a teacher, babysitter or someone that you trust who can help you through this. It might also be necessary to get the other kid’s parents and school involved.
It’s also important to remember that whoever is targeting you, is insecure about themselves and they are trying to make you feel bad too. Do not let their lack of confidence bring you down because clearly they see something in you that they wish they had.
The girls of Hyperlinked!
Girls on the Run: Miss O & Friends® is a community where girls can socialize and be themselves—safely. What makes the safety of this platform unique?
Juliette: Miss O and Friends and our 100% safe socialization app, the Girl2Girl Wall, is a place where girls can ask questions, get advice and talk to other girls without all the scary stuff parents (and kids!) are worried about in a social network. Nothing gets posted on both the website or the app without a real human person reading it and approving it. This way, we can screen for identifiable information, bullying, hate language and content that wouldn’t be appropriate for the 8 to 14 year-old-girl. Our registration process complies with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA), and we never ask for identifiable info from the girls when the sign up.
Our users create a screen name, which serves as their identity on the site and the app. We take both the physical and mental safety of our users very seriously and, in the 13 years we’ve been in business, we’ve never had any sort of breach.
Girls on the Run: How does Miss O & Friends® encourage girls to be confident?
Juliette: We do this in a lot of ways! The Girl2Girl Wall is a place where girls can really talk about anything and everything. They can express their thoughts, concerns, opinions and ideas. It’s a positive community where girls help and encourage other girls, instead of putting each other down.
Our website is also all user generated content, meaning it’s the real girls who are writing the posts. It’s another great way to get her voice heard and ideas out there. We believe that building confidence is all about giving girls a platform to express themselves. I read this quote recently that said, “When young people are given a voice to express their own experiences and opinions, they will hold themselves to higher standards than we can ever impose.” I love that and truly believe it’s a way to empower, build confidence and provide girls with important communication tools.
Download the Girl2Girl Wall app to get social -- safely!
Girls on the Run: How have you seen girls grow from engaging with the Miss O & Friends® community and what impression/legacy does Miss O & Friends® hope to leave on the world?
Juliette: We recently conducted a survey on our site and one of the results we found was that 90% of our community believes they are influencers among their friends. It’s amazing to see that type of confidence from our girls. Another other result we’ve seen is from our YouTube Premium Original Series, Hyperlinked. The series is about girls in middle school who create and build a website to help other girls, while dealing with middle school issues of their own. The series has strong themes of STEM/coding, entrepreneurship and positive female friendships.
In a study done with Thicket Labs, it found that girls who watched Hyperlinked were 11% more likely to pursue careers in computer science than girls who didn’t watch. Our goal was to show girls that STEM and coding are cool by giving them positive role models in the series and it’s so awesome to see real results like that. With everything we do, we are continuously looking to empower, inspire and encourage girls to be their unique selves, and show them that they can do it.