A few months ago, I received a phone call that made my heart drop. A 13-year-old boy in my daughter’s class had taken his life.
In the days that followed, our community came together in somber grief to show our support. Well- wishers attended the house of the boy to provide solace to the grieving family. The superintendents note went out to the school community, advising that mental health counselors would be on hand to discuss the tragedy. Memorials were coordinated by clergy and of course, meal trains and Go Fund Me’s were created by friends.
In the din of all the grieving was nervous whispers echoing from parent to parent. "What happened?" "Why did he do it?".
The answer, as days passed, unfolded to provide a startling truth. To the dismay of us parents, the answer seemed to be simply this. Nothing. There was no clear reason, no tangible explanation. You couldn’t see this coming. By all accounts, this boy was smart, and handsome, well liked, with many friends. He had a girlfriend (a landmark among the 7th grade set), had wonderful supportive parents and two younger adoring brothers. He was not being bullied and showed no signs of his intent in school. By all accounts he was happy.
Appearances can be deceiving and upon his death, when his phone and computer were more closely examined, we found that indeed there were answers-many of them.
Over the months, he had made statements to his peers on Snapchat and expressed his sentiments on group texts to friends. His haunting messages conveyed a sincere desire to end it all. He wanted to “get out” and couldn’t take it anymore. However, friends being in 7th grade, chalked it up to a joke or just Tyler being dramatic and they dismissed his cries for help.
Today many kids are making secret confessions online, crying out into cyberworld. Kids are crying out in pain, crying out for help. The problem is that they simply don’t know where they should turn to get it and parents all too often are unaware of their burning need for intervention. Whether made anonymously or using their real identity, often their messages are not heard by those who need to hear them.
A child commits suicide every 95 minutes in America. According to Dr. Gregory Fritz, president of the American Academy of Childhood and Adolescent Psychiatry, “Suicidal depression is real and can strike any teen, anywhere. Somewhere between 15-20% of high school kids say they have thought about suicide in the past year.” That’s at least 1 child in every American classroom. Fritz says, “A lot of loving parents can miss something serious, like changes are just a phase.”. Couple this with the fact that teens are spending less time with family than ever as internet use soars and we have a very serious problem on our hands.
Like many parents, and completely worried, I started to search for an app I could install onto my daughters phone to help me hear these messages if I needed to. But all that seemed to be available on the market were options to simply silence my daughter by turning apps on or off or alternatively allowing me as a parent to monitor her phone remotely as she uses it. With two kids and a busy household, there was no way I could have stayed proactive and be alerted in real-time. Rather, It was a reactive approach and unfortunately, would not have worked in the case of a real-time emergency.
I started to research if other parents felt the way I did. I didn’t have to look far for my answers. Sue Klebold, mother of one of the Columbine shooters, who ended his life after taking 13 others, says while she noticed a changed in her son Dylan, she chalked it up to her son’s moods and irritability of adolescence. He had just taken a girl to the prom the Friday before the shooting and was looking forward to college in the fall. She was quoted as saying if it were me today, "I would dig and dig." The digging would have unveiled journals, notes, drawings and sketches of plans to commit the large-scale murders.
Dylan’s communication preemptively is not an isolated incident. In fact, in a youtube video chat, confessed school shooter Nikolas Cruz confidently expressed that he was going to be a “professional school shooter”. This before opening fire on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people. Fipple was conceived from the notion that these tragic events can be prevented. That we can be proactive, alerted and empowered. Using the best in data science algorithms, combined with a deep understanding of child psychology and linguistics, Fipple monitors a child's keystrokes to alert parents if there are any warning signs. In addition, Fipple digs deeper to decipher children’s codes, memes and texting abbreviations to translate any warning signs to parents.
If you have home alarm and a school alarm, your child’s phone should have one too, especially if they are a minor.
We leverage technology for the good of our children and loved ones, bringing together a passionate team of expert psychologists, linguists, and data scientists to mine keystrokes for any sign(s) of depression, suicidal thoughts, bullying, cyberstalking, violent content, drug use, and much more.
Fipple is a way to dig deep into your childs psyche through their digital footprint, while still allowing child privacy and independence in cyberspace. Fipple simply empowers parents to understand their children, see the warning signs and intervene swiftly and when necessary.
We can no longer stand by idly and watch. Now we are proactive and able to intervene and halt those occurrences, save lives, enrich those around us and become an agent of change to propel and better, safer world.
Join us, hand-in-hand, across all our children’s keyboards and our hearts, to keep our children safe and healthy. Together, we can improve safety and prevent tragedy for our children, our family members, our friends, and our community.