This Israeli Startup Wants to Stop Cyberbullying

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Israeli schoolchildren walk to school. SafeSchool Analytics, founded by former journalist Doron Herman, is helping schools help students.
Israeli schoolchildren walk to school. SafeSchool Analytics, founded by former journalist Doron Herman, is helping schools help students.Credit: Emil Salman
Omri Zerachovitz
Omri Zerachovitz

SafeSchool Analytics takes on the dangers and violence of the digital world. The company is developing a video resource library for schools, providing a way to analyze the school's social climate, based on anonymous questionnaires. The company has raised almost $ 1 million from senior figures in the Israeli high-tech industry in Israel.

Cyberbullying is one of the major risks children and adolescents face today. If once children were warned about strangers offering them sweets, today the fears have spread to the internet, where fictitious profiles operate that can seduce the children or harm them in other ways.

One can learn about the situation from data published by Moked 105, the national bureau for child protection online, in March 2021. According to the data, 23 percent of the offences were sexual, and a further 22 percent included the distribution of photos, videos, or boycotts. 65 of victims are girls, and 82 percent of offenders are boys. 60 percent of the victims are aged 10-14. Some 59 percent of the assaults occurred on WhatsApp, Instagram and Tiktok. The data was derived from 930 referrals received that month.

Former journalist Doron Herman wants to help schools stop cyberbullying and prepare children for the dangers of the digital arena Credit: Guy Gilad

A few weeks ago, one of the most famous and serious cases of cybercrime in Israel ended with the sentencing of Beno Reinhorn to 14 years in prison. Reinhorn, a handball coach from Herzliya, was convicted of committing sexual offenses against 24 minors and three women, as well as attempting to commit sexual offences with dozens of other women. Reinhorn used to masquerade online as a modeling agent or power player in the entertainment industry and made young women photograph themselves committing sexual acts and even asked them to send him pictures and videos in partial or full nudity. He was convicted of offenses of virtual rape or virtual sodomy in circumstances of rape, indecent acts online, identity theft and more.

This case and many others like it highlight the urgent need to address the issue. One of the solutions to cyberbullying, one way or another, is to increase the awareness amongst children and adolescents, teachers, and parents. Attempting to do just this is the SafeSchool Analytics company founded by Doron Herman, a former crime reporter on Channel 13, who in recent years has been lecturing on the subject. "It's not enough to teach them physics and math, they also need to be taught how to manage their digital lives," says Herman.

Herman's company has raised nearly $ 1 million from senior executives in the high-tech industry, led by Nir Zohar, president of Wix, who knew Herman through their joint fitness trainer. Zohar also enlisted Wix's founders, Avishai and Nadav Avrahami, Giora (Gig) Kaplan, and the company's deputy CFO, Lior Shemesh. Additional investors in the company:  Eyal Waldman, founder of Mellanox; Micha Kaufman, founder and CEO of Fiverr; Tomer Bar-Ze'ev, founder and CEO of IronSource; and investor Michael Eisenberg of the VC fund Aleph.

Digital PTA

SafeSchool is developing a video resource library for schools. To help schools gauge their students' welfare and the problems and challenges they face, the company also provides a resource for school social climate analysis, based on anonymous questionnaires.

"We ask the children what apps they use, if something has happened to them online, if they have 2-step verification, if they have sensitive images on their phones, questions that test their level of digital literacy and more," Herman explains. "It provides each school, principal, teachers, counselors and psychologists with information about the issues the children are facing and their welfare. The problems vary according to school level, so the relevant content is tailored accordingly." The information and data are anonymous, but the findings are also available to Herman, who can understand if new issues are evolving that require new content.

Nir Zohar of Wix is one of SafeSchool Analytics' first investors Credit: Eyal Toueg

The company is in the early stages of marketing to schools, offering to provide the resource content library at the start of the upcoming school year. The videos are usually between 8 and 15 minutes long and are accompanied by lesson plans that the teachers can choose from.

According to Zohar, "there are three groups - students, teachers, and parents - who need to learn how to deal with this reality, and all three lack the ability. They have no resources to prevent it, and even when things happen - to identify and manage them. We want to provide these resources.”

The resource the company is developing combines content and technology. “One doesn't work without the other," he says.

Herman’s lectures initially focused on the challenges of the digital world, but they now include discussion of shaming and boycotts, addictions, safe driving, personal and female empowerment, positive psychology, economics, preparation for the IDF, blockchain and more. The lecturing team includes the journalists Alon Ben-David and Amlya Duek; Emi Palmor, former Director General of the Ministry of Justice and currently a member of Facebook's Oversight Board; Oded Vanunu of Check Point; and Meni Yitzhaki, former head of the Israel Police’s investigations unit.

Herman is working to adapt the content to Arab and Ultra-Orthodox students and says that in the future he will also consider expanding to other countries, while adapting the content and lecturers. "Kids are harassed on social media in similar ways, just in different languages," he said.

To access the content platform and questionnaires, each school pays an annual fee ranging from 5,500 shekels (for elementary school) to 7,500 shekels (for high school). According to Herman, this is a low pricing compared to the cost of individual lectures, which cost about 3,000 shekels. "It's a business, not a charity. Some of the lecturers want to do it for free, but many of them get paid and we want to recruit the best people out there," he said.

Zohar adds: "None of us see this as a contribution to charity. Like any start-up it can fail, but the idea is that it will succeed and generate revenue. We may need more funding rounds in the future, but we treat it entirely as a business." 

"The education system needs to significantly upgrade its technological capabilities and how it uses its technology to teach and deliver content," he said.

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