From the moment Miami mom Rebecca Nachlas set out to build a safe social-media website for kids, she knew one thing: It absolutely had to be free of cyberbullies. That's because years ago—long before recent tragedies thrust the bullying problem into the national spotlight—she got a painfully close look at what happens when one child chooses to victimize another.
Not long after her daughter Sacha had begun kindergarten, the shy, eager-to-please 6-year-old's excitement turned to dread. “She would start worrying about school every morning, in the car,” says the mom of two. “Sacha would say, ‘I wonder what she's going to say to me today.’”
“She” was a classmate who'd begun making mean comments about Sacha, then convinced other little girls not to play with her. Without doing anything to cause it, Sacha had become one of the 24 percent of kids that studies say are bullied at school.
Nachlas, a personal-injury attorney, read up on bullying. She tried role-playing with her daughter, to teach her what to say and do when the insults began to fly. She called the other girl's mother. (“She said, ‘My daughter would never do that,’” Nachlas recalls.) She spoke to Sacha's teachers, got involved in the PTA, and urged the school to include anti-bullying workshops in the curriculum.
“I complained about my daughter's bully, but school officials said, ‘She's just a mean girl.’”
But as fall turned into winter, and winter into spring, the situation got physical: Sacha was tripped on the playground and stabbed in the back with a pencil. Nachlas threatened to pull her daughter out, and other parents started complaining about the same little girl. It wasn't until the school year ended that Sacha found relief. The girls were in different classes the next year.
Fast-forward six years: Sacha had grown into a happy, social seventh-grader, and Nachlas noticed that she'd become intrigued with social-media sites like MySpace and Facebook, even though she wasn't allowed to visit them. Unable to find a similar but child-friendly site, Nachlas decided to build one. She created a company, WishB (after Sacha's nickname, Wish, and that of her little brother, Beef), and hired a design and development team.