An astounding 95% of teenagers have a smartphone or access to one and 88% have access to desktop or laptop computers, according to The Pew Research Center’s Teen, Social Media, and Technology 2018 report. Technology is not a part of their lives, it IS their lives. With that, however, comes dangers like cyberbullying. Just when we thought we had identified how students cyberbully each other on social media, a new trend is threatening teenagers on Instagram.
The Pew Research Center’s report also reveals that over 45% of teens are online ‘almost constantly’ and that Instagram is one of the leading apps teenagers use, with 72% of teens using the platform.
Recently, another Pew Research Center survey was published on about teen experiences with cyberbullying. Unfortunately, we are seeing a rise in prevalence with the majority of teens experiencing online harassment, and the GenZ-ers are aware of the impact it has on their generation.
We have seen the rise of Instagram and the positive connections it creates. However, according to The Atlantic, Instagram hate pages have surfaced as a new method for teens to cyberbully each other. While friendships form and strengthen through social media, it can also be a place for dismay if those bonds go sour. Instagram has become a tool to cast their negative outlook of others.
What makes Instagram such a popular tool for teen cyberbullying is effortless twisted way perpetrators use the platform for. In fact, anyone can create an anonymous profile and can set it on private to avoid detection. The algorithm’s ‘instant’ capability allows for users to add content with harmful captions and hashtags, making the negative posts gain virality organically. The more ‘likes’ the content has, the more it shows up on user timelines.
In addition to the hate accounts publishing their own content, users use screenshots as a weapon by taking screenshots of victims and sharing it. Other features that are taken advantage of are Stories and Live Videos – ‘instant’ yet temporary content that can be deleted.
Another trend in the Instaworld is the rise of ‘finstas’ or fake Instagram accounts, these accounts are secondary accounts that teens create to post anonymous and unfiltered content, a stark contrast to their ‘public persona’. From physically revealing photos to videos of illegal activity or self-harm to full-on hate pages, ‘finsta’ accounts are gaining popularity for teens to show their true thoughts and feelings.
A ‘finsta’ account can also be used to cyberbully. Since the accounts are non-identifiable, it’s not difficult to follow and comment on photos. Victims face offensive comments, screenshots of embarrassing behavior, and rumors or secrets spread by what seem like complete strangers. These accounts have been seen to destroy friendships and reputations.
Who’s accountable for stopping these habits on Instagram? We all have our part. Instagram has gone on to make improvements to acting against harmful accounts and users. This week, the social media platform revealed an advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) feature that will support detecting bullying in photos. Their recent comment filter has also been beefed, up by adding comment filtering to their Live Video feature. Furthermore, Instagram is combatting bullying by emphasizing kindness with a new kindness camera effect.
However, it’s not just Instagram that should be acting, we should all be proactive. At a time where we have seen the impacts of cyberbullying on teens in our communities and in the headlines, it’s critical that schools address the issues that affect the students they care for. Promoting trust between school staff and students is important and can help students come forward to report incidents. There has also been a rise in anonymous tip lines where students can submit tips via email on bullying and cyberbullying.
Social media is a major concern, but online and offline bullying is increasing. Here at Smoothwall, we are doing our part by developing Safeguarding technology that allows educators to identify high-risk behavior and proactively intervene.
Could Smoothwall help stop cyberbullying at your school? Preventing incidents is a monumental task, but the right technology can help. Reach out to a Smoothwall representative today to learn how Safeguarding could be used to protect teens at your school.
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