According to the Pew Research Center, 57% of teens today have made online friends. Online friendships can frighten parents, and teenagers are often advised against forming them to no avail. As the world goes more and more digital, online friendships are becoming part of more and more teenagers' lives; however, different social codes, the anonymity factor, and potential predators online mean that internet friendships are relatively uncharted territory when it comes to safety and interpersonal effectiveness.

What it does

Borrowing from the spectrum of violence prevention, Beyond the Screen aims to decrease stress and avoid unsafe or abusive situations by both strengthening individual knowledge & skills and promoting community educations. Beyond the Screen provides resources that teaches teens how to respond to common stressful or unhealthy situations in online friendships, such as depression, communication issues, and grooming. It also offers a verification system in which users who have a school email can check if their online friends also have a school email, which deters predators from lying about their identities.

How we built it

We used HTML and CSS to build the web page, as well as JavaScript to process the interactive elements.

Challenges we ran into

We went through many different frameworks trying to find a way to implement the login page. In addition, in order for the verification page to be comprehensive, we would need a comprehensive list of school district email systems, and preferably email permissions for these school systems. Finally, there is not much information already available about online friendships and how to navigate them; that's the reason we made the app, but more research is definitely possible.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

  • Creating the login page
  • Compiling information on many sensitive subjects
  • Adding a suggestion element so we can update the site based on teens' needs

What we learned

We learned a lot about how to use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to build a website. In addition, we learned about teen issues, healthy relationships, and what's important when navigating a complex interpersonal situation.

What's next for Beyond the Screen

We want to expand verification capabilities, get more comprehensive information, and actually learn from teens what issues they face in online friendships. Another option might be communicating to parents in ways that don't completely alienate their kids. We want to make the site more interactive to enhance the learning experience and tailor the interface to the user's needs. Finally, we want to learn about demographic susceptibility to unhealthy online situations.

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