Distance Learning: For the Fall, Permanently, or Not at All?

The positive and negative effects of distance learning have been debated within the last few months for K-12 schools and higher education. Places like California State University (CSU) have already decided to move toward remote learning for most classes for the fall 2020 semester. Many administrators and educators have questioned whether or not it is too early to say if the fall semester will remain online for both K-12 schools and higher education. However, 482,000 students at all 23 campuses of CSU know all too well that regardless, they will most likely have to continue to adapt to this change in education.

The Washington Post stated that, according to university officials, “exceptions could be made for laboratory-intensive courses and certain others.” These lab specific courses will need to meet in person and follow social distancing regulations like wearing a mask and staying 6 feet apart at a minimum.

Pace University, located in New York State, has followed a different approach for higher education by announcing its intentions to allow students to move back on campus for the fall. Will class sizes be reduced as a precaution? Will class schedules change from weekly, to bi-weekly, to limit face-to-face interactions?

K-12 schools administrators have also been discussing their plans for re-opening schools for the upcoming 2020-2021 academic year. Tests have been canceled, including the SAT, which impacts teachers, and juniors’ future college applications. Parents remain in a holding pattern with a desire to start making plans if they have to be at work and their children are at home with no supervision.

Parents are already under stress from layoffs, reduced income, and being a teacher at home while trying to get remote work done, if possible. However, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has controversially suggested that it might be time to permanently switch to online education, as the in-person teaching is old-school, in his opinion. In response, petitions have been started to speak out against this idea as many people disagree or simply cannot afford to do so.

Essentially, he suggested that these traditional methods of teaching should soon be replaced with permanent virtual education. High school students might be able to adapt to this, but what about middle school students, elementary students, and those in kindergarten and pre-k students? How would permanent virtual education impact a child’s emotional growth and social skills & abilities that they learn through face-to-face interactions?

We encourage colleges, universities, and K-12 schools to think about these questions and have discussions with their administrative staff. While we cannot answer these questions for you, we can provide helpful information to assist you based on what we have seen and observed throughout the past few months.


  • 2x rise in online bullying, also known as cyberbullying
  • 2x increase in family issues, including domestic violence
  • Parents exploiting their children for personal financial gain
  • Predators are targeting children online at an increased rate

All five major topics listed below have increased since the start of this global pandemic and the transition to distance learning. With June being National Internet Safety Month, we have created a webinar series called “Navigating Cyberbullying, Online Predators and Child Exploitation” to talk more in detail about these topics. Details can be found at the bottom of this post.

Cyberbullying and Cyber Harassment:

  • We have seen a major spike in submitted reports of these incident types
  • Online activity has increased which means more possible instances of cyberbullying
  • Social media usage and online gaming have increased dramatically
  • With increased online usage, are students being judgmental and mean?

Mental Health:

  • Depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts have increased
  • Kids spend more time inside unable to have face-to-face social interactions
  • More time at home can lead to more financial and emotional family issues
  • COVID-19 itself is a frightening topic for kids and produces anxiety

Domestic Violence: (Psychology Today)

  • Victims often do not come forward right away, if at all
  • Leaving their home is their escape and aids in their ability to report the incident(s)
  • Not being able to leave their home prohibits that
  • Intimate partner violence, or IPV has increased greatly, and the United States Population Fund predicted that a 3-month quarantine would raise IPV cases by 20 percent, according to Psychology Today
  • Violence can be physical, mental, and emotional

Exploitation of Children: (Safe and Sound Schools)

  • Many teens and their parents cannot go to work and earn money, so they sign up for sites in which they “sell their bodies” through posting sexual content
  • Although children can say they are older, voluntary exploitation is more common among older teenagers and young adults
  • Most children fall victim to exploitation, but do not say anything because of embarrassment

Susceptibility to Predators: (FBI)

  • Child predators typically look for victims online
  • The more time children spend online, the higher chance of falling victim to a predator
  • Predators typically use online messaging to become friends with children and hope to earn their trust
  • Children are coerced into sending images of themselves

With increased online activity during this “new normal,” educators, parents, and guardians need to remind children of the warning signs that someone online is involved in sexual exploitation. It is important to monitor internet and device usage, and to encourage children to come forward if they experience such incidents.

As we begin to plan for the safe return of students to schools, this newly expanded online world of distance learning has brought forth new challenges for students, parents, and administrators. These situations need to be faced head on and it is essential to develop a plan for responding to a child when he or she discloses alleged cyberbullying, sexual abuse, sextortion, cyberbullying, suicidal thoughts, and more.

How Anonymous Alerts Can Help:

  • Administration can promote Anonymous Alerts reporting for sensitive issues
  • Administration can customize incident reports to fit the distance learning realm
  • Students can take screenshots of online activity or pictures of domestic abuse to send in with their anonymous reports to administrators
  • And more

One of our responsibilities as an anti-bullying incident reporting and management software company is to help mold the world we all live in. Our Anonymous Alerts mission is to help the well-being of students and their families through proactive anonymous reporting of bullying, harassment, drug use, weapons on campus, and more in order to defeat hatred, cruel acts, intolerance, and inequality.

The changes we have seen in students over the past few months have had a powerful impact on how we all do our jobs. For students, parents, and staff, please know that Anonymous Alerts will continue to support school communities, regardless of whether distance learning is continued or not. We encourage parents to contact their school district and share this article with school administrators to spread awareness of these critical topics.

Invitation to register for the Upcoming Webinar:

Navigating Cyberbullying, Online Predators, and Child Exploitation


By T. Gregory Bender
Anonymous Alerts®

Copyright © 2020 T. Gregory Bender. All rights reserved.


Anonymous Alerts 13 Reasons Why 2nd Season

The second entry of this blog is to make you aware, that Netflix has released the second season of the controversial series, 13 Reasons Why.  Similar to the launch of the first season, concerns about the extreme graphical nature of the themes and issues presented in the series, such as: dating violence, suicidal thoughts, bullying, substance abuse, and more, have experienced divisive discussion in the press.  Many of these issues are adult-related and severe in nature.  Some argue that exposure to these narrative situations can cause a significant impact on children due to the portrayal of how mental health and mental illness are illustrated in the show.

How national organizations and parents are stepping in

Because of the continued presence of difficult themes in the show’s narrative, organizations, such as the National Association of School Psychologists (link provided below), have released “guidelines” and strong recommendations for parents and guardians in relation to the new episodes:

  • The dramatic and graphic portrayal of difficult issues such as sexual harassment and suicide has the potential to put young people at risk for emotional distress or harmful behavior
  • Vulnerable children and youth should not watch the series
  • Those struggling with suicidal behavior and depression should not watch it alone
  • Parents/guardians should watch it with their child and discuss the issues when necessary
    • NASP provides a toolkit of resources for parents to utilize for these discussions

How schools can get involved

Parents/guardians are not alone in this action.  There are initiatives that schools can implement that can help students who are struggling with these challenges:

  • A solid and organized support system with school staff that students have easy access to
    • Give students plenty of channels and opportunities to communicate their concerns
    • Involve parents and the community as a resource to provide enhanced information to school officials
    • Empower students to use their voice by creating a safe place where they can express themselves openly, but remain anonymous
      • Students avoid fear of retribution by peers
      • Allows school personnel to take immediate action on concerns they never would have known had a private communication outlet not been in place
      • Readily available resources related to sensitive topics
      • Conducting events and forums for the school community to discuss the show’s content
        • Guest speakers give presentations about their experience
        • Discuss what you think is similar to what you’ve seen or experienced in your own life and what might be amplified for dramatic emphasis.1
        • Think about what might be missing that is typical in the real world, but not portrayed in the series.1

How Anonymous Alerts can help  

Open discussion of these issues is a great initiative that can lead to productive communication between all members of the district community.  However, there are some students who feel uncomfortable with the platform of face-to-face communication.  Providing these students with an alternative tool that allows for open dialogue in a private, anonymous setting creates a sense of freedom where they can express themselves and not feel vulnerable.

With the help of the Anonymous Alerts mobile application, students are provided with a tool they can use when they feel in distress.  It empowers students to speak up about sensitive issues without fear of retribution by maintaining a safe environment with 100% anonymous 2-way communications between themselves and school officials.  Having a safety app like this in place will allow students to feel like they have someone to turn to at all times, especially when they find themselves or others in difficult situations.

The months ahead

As we embrace summer vacation and look forward to the upcoming school year, this series may have an impact on your student body when schools re-open.  It is important to know that there are a multitude of communication tools out there for students to use their voice to report concerns such as strange behavior, bullying, or social/emotional withdrawal to school officials.  The ability for students to privately express themselves, whether it’s on the Anonymous Alerts mobile app or speaking directly to school counselors and psychologists, is critical in maintaining a safe school climate.

Click here for the NASP press release for guidance regarding 13 Reasons Why, Season 2

Happy Summer!

T. Gregory Bender
Anonymous Alerts®

Copyright © 2018 T. Gregory Bender. All rights reserved.

113 Reasons Why – Discussion Guide

13 reasons why anonymous alerts can help

This blog is regarding the controversial Netflix® original series 13 Reasons Why and ways that Anonymous Alerts® can help your schools address the issues highlighted in the show.

Within the series, the main character Hannah faces numerous hardships that many students of all ages face. These hardships, along with the lack of help or someone to talk to, are the reasons why she took her own life. Whether school faculty and staff know about it or not, many students are going through similar situations depicted in the show as outlined below:

  • Bullying/Cyberbullying
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Addiction
  • Peer Pressure
  • Feelings of loneliness/neglect

Some have claimed that the series depicts suicide as a glamorized option when one is faced with difficult situations. Suicide should never be glamorized because it is not a solution.  The show does properly depict that it can be hard for students to openly talk to someone about what they are going through. Students feel vulnerable and lost when they have no one to talk to. It is important for schools to play an active role in making sure students have healthy ways to handle difficult situations, and making them aware of how they can help one another through difficult times.

Below are some suggestions for school faculty and staff to discuss with their students:

  • Never be a bystander. If they see something, say something. It could save a classmate’s life.
  • Always tell the truth, you never know how a “lie” or “rumor” can affect someone.
  • Suicide is never an option for anyone, help is always available. Don’t be afraid to seek it.
  • Always make sure students are aware of suicidal signs. They maybe able to spot them more easily than faculty and staff. Students should be encouraged to speak up if they see or hear a student is in trouble.

It is important that students are made aware of the various healthy options they have available to them, both in school and out of school.

The Anonymous Alerts® mobile application can empower students with its anonymous reporting, helpful resources, and on demand video training. When students see something, it will be easier for them to say something with the ability to remain 100% anonymous. The app’s help and resources section can educate and provide helpful information to students in the form of web content, websites, custom videos, YouTube videos and more.

Here are some suggested uses of Anonymous Alerts®:

Anonymous Reporting

  • A student in distress can establish 100% anonymous 2-way communications with a trusted adult, or with school staff about a similar situation depicted in the series.
  • Friends of a student can also be encouraged to speak up with anonymous reporting if they see their friend in need of help.
  • Students should be encouraged to notify a trusted adult if they have any knowledge of occurrences similar to those illustrated in the series.
  • If the school as a whole goes through a tragic event, administrators have the power to send goodwill messages to each student through the app for those whom have opted in.

Anonymous Alerts – Help and Resources

  • Our customizableHelp and Resourcessection of the mobile app is a place for school officials to provide students with helpful materials
  • Materials can included a variety of sensitive topics such as mental health, bullying, self-harm, and more.
  • School officials can customize this section in ways they think best fits their school community.

Some suggested videos that may help a child in need:

Some suggested website resources that may help a child in need:

Feel free to visit our website at www.anonymousalerts.com or call us at 914-220-8326 or (888)291-2090 to learn more and schedule a demo.

We hope you have a safe and healthy end of the school year!

By T. Gregory Bender
Anonymous Alerts®


Copyright © 2017 T. Gregory Bender. All rights reserved.

Averting a campus crisis with anonymous communications

Thanks to the use of handheld smart phones and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, we can all share and distribute information quickly. Events like the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting and the recent deadly shooting rampage at Umpqua Community College, underscore how important it is to get information about a potential tragedy before it happens. Gun violence in or around schools has become a national debate concerning school and student safety and the need to revise school safety plans and guns laws are not enough.

Anonymous communications can help to avert a tragedy

The U.S. Department of Education and Secret Service states that for over 81 percent of violent acts or planned events that occur, someone knew about it ahead of time. From most accounts bullying, cyberbullying and/or student depression issues continue to be drivers in school shootings or violent events on and off campus. Anonymous alerts or anonymous communications by students to school officials can be a helpful deterrent to stopping a violent campus event before it happens. It is alleged that prior to the Oregon College shooting various posts were made to social media by the shooter in the days leading up to the campus shooting.

Bullying and student depression

Over 160,000 students stay home every school day due to bullying, according to the National Association of School Psychologists. Student depression among teens and college students is believed to be the leading cause of self-harm and suicide, limiting academic performance and attendance in the classroom. More than ever, young K-12 students and college students have more to contend and deal with in a fast paced social media driven world.

Students are the best source

Students are always monitoring their social media posts and reading what other students post, they can play a significant role by placing anonymous or non-anonymous reports directly to school officials about something they see or hear. School security options today are typically around what happens during or after a crisis. School security cameras catch bullying, harassment, vandalism, theft, security risks as they are happening. Students can be an early warning system for school officials by using their mobile devices to capture social media posts that concern them and send them to school officials.

By T. Gregory Bender
Anonymous Alerts®


Copyright © 2015 T. Gregory Bender. All rights reserved.