How I Used My Influence to Combat Cyberbullying and Suicide
This story about Rianette Leibowtiz is an amazing account about how she decided to use her influence to combat cyberbullying. All along the way, The Global Leadership Summit inspired her on her journey to keep going despite what seemed impossible. Today, SaveTNet, the organization she founded, is a registered non-profit company that operates globally and aims to save lives by creating awareness for responsible digital engagement.
My life was actually quite great. I had an amazing husband. I had a baby. I was an entrepreneur. I finally had my own business, and I was my own boss. It was amazing because I was busy with lots of different things.
She walked upstairs one day, and found her daughter hanging. It was over.
And then my heart broke for a cause.
The story that broke my heart was about a mother whose daughter was being cyberbullied. She knew her daughter’s behavior was changing, and she looked depressed, but she thought she had it under control. They had a good relationship. And she walked upstairs one day, and found her daughter hanging. It was over.
If that girl had had somewhere to go, or the mother had someone to ask, What do I do? How do I deal with this? Then the story might have had a different ending.
In this digital world we operate and live in, where do you go if your identity is stolen? Whom do you speak to if your child is being cyberbullied? And as a business owner, if your data is ransomed, what do you do?
That’s where the non-profit SafeTNet Cyber Safety comes in.
SafeTNet is a non-profit, for purpose company, and we aim to save lives by creating awareness for responsible digital citizenship. We want to help victims. We have a network of forensic analysts, psychologists, the right people at the police, and also legal advisers.
In the past, our identities were formed in this physical realm with face-to-face conversations and interactions with people. Now it’s done virtually, and young ones are challenged because their identities are being formed online as well.
He broke my heart for an issue, and encouraged me to take action.
Among all these issues in cyberspace, cyberbullying is one of the big ones. It’s quite a hot topic at the moment. If you have to define it, it’s communication that’s done through electronic mediums to harm someone.
We received a call from a mom whose son was being held for ransom. The son had shared images privately with someone online, and now they were being ransomed for ZAR40,000. If he didn’t pay by a certain time, the private images would be posted online for everyone to see. The family called us and we helped them by getting the police and forensic analysts involved. This mom and her son did not have to pay the ransom and the photos were not made public. What would have happened if we had not had SafeTNet for them that day? Those photos probably would have been shared, and his digital footprint would have been ruined.
SafeTNet’s influence grows
Recently, SafeTNet was invited by Facebook Africa to be part of their discussion regarding their online rules, and their community rules. As a thought leader, it was a great opportunity for us to have influence, and to take that knowledge and the policy making part of it to business.
Creating awareness is so rewarding. We speak at schools to the kids, to the parents, and the governing bodies of schools. There’s a lot of governance that goes into this. Policies need to be put in place.
It’s been fascinating to see brands like Cartoon Network, and become part of their “Be a buddy, not a bully” campaign. Big corporations are sponsoring us to go into communities where we can speak to 10 schools in two days instead of one school at a time. We can hold community evenings where people can get involved. That’s when we can see real behavioral change.
A challenge to live your purpose
Living your purpose and following your journey is hard. You make sacrifices, and you need to be ready for that. But for me, the sacrifices I had to make have been worth it. It’s wonderful when you help someone.
Looking back, I’m so thankful that God kept on nudging me. He broke my heart for an issue, and encouraged me to take action.
So what is it that is bugging you enough that you’re going to take a step forward and get going? What is it that you’re acting on?
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