Across the generational spectrum, teenagers have not always been the kindest people. To themselves and to adults as well, they are something else. They pick fun at other people’s misfortunes and make others feel horrible for no apparent reason.
We noticed a huge spike in this problematic behaviour with the latch-and-key kids because of their new found freedom as their parents began assuming full-time corporate jobs. But not until the era of the smartphone did the rest of the world witness the real horror that teenagers are.
Before social media, victims of bullying would look forward to going home because the bullying at school ends when the teens leave school. Now, because of the omnipresent nature of the internet, bullying never stops. The bully is everywhere they turn. Like a shadow, following them.
As if that wasn’t enough, bullying keeps effortlessly multiplying with each ‘share’ or ‘like’, and because the internet is forever, the mean content generated never disappears, it can haunt a teen for years after. That’s what social media has done.
Among many other things, there are now groups created to haze and thousands of people from different schools commenting. People who do not know the victim first hand, teens not even in the same region, fan the flames of the rumour mill.
Some of the ways social media has heightened and aided teen bullying include:
1. Revenge Porn:
Something is classified as revenge porn when it is an explicit picture or video, it is shared online to embarrass or distress the subject, and if it is sent by someone they were sexually intimate with, be it by sexting or being in a relationship.
Revenge porn has to be on the top of the list of horrible things the internet caused. Sexting is basically impossible without the internet, and revenge porn is a direct effect of sexting gone wrong.
Often times when a teen feels hurt when a relationship is broken off, it is a first instinct to resort to revenge porn to cause their ex-boyfriend/girlfriend the same pain they felt. Let’s thank social media for giving them a free mailing list for convenient forwarding.
Sextortion is defined as the practice of exploiting (extorting money or sexual favours) or blackmailing a person by threatening to reveal proof of their sexual activity. Social media makes this increasingly convenient for the blackmailer whose identity can remain hidden.
If the blackmailer’s terms are not met, the teen can be faced with prolonged public humiliation when the images or videos are shared. The effect of losing control over a private image or video can be particularly catastrophic for a teen, especially when it is shared among peers’ social networks, or sent to relatives, or worse when shared more widely.
A white paper in the UK showed that found that of teens who had taken nude or semi-nude sexual images of them, 55% had shared them with others. And although the possession and/or distribution of these images is illegal in most countries, social media allows anyone in possession of these images to post them, even with a fake account, anonymously.
Cyberbullying is bullying done through electronic technologies. According to a review of several related research, one in four teens is bullied online.
Although the majority of the items already on this list can be considered cyberbullying, they do not even scratch the surface of the nightmare that is bullying via social media.
Some other ways people teens bully each other on social media include: creating a website or social media page whose purpose is to mock another teen; creating a fake social media profile to damage another’s reputation; cyber stalking, continuously harassing, belittling and unfairly criticising another; threatening to physically harm another teen; and many more.
4. Creating offensive content and Defaming others
With photoshop and photo/video editing apps readily available and relatively not hard to learn, digitally manipulating pictures to create false impressions is a tool frequently used by teens to bully each other.
Teens can conveniently create offensive content or even sexual gifs and troll other teens on social media.
Catfishing occurs when an online troll (a person on the internet whose goal is to start quarrels, harass people and make them emotional and upset) poses as another person online in an attempt to catch an unsuspecting victim and demean or humiliate them. 73% of the time, they use photos of someone else online to deceive another teen.
Often times this is done to get the target teen to say something personal and embarrassing about themselves to another person they consider a friend, this person may go as far as taking a screenshot and sending them to group chats to embarrass and expose the teen’s vulnerability.
The information gotten could also be used blackmail the teen as explained by some 15-year-olds who keep a gallery of screenshots they have to use as leverage over another.
6. Sexual Harassment
Pressure from older teens or even their mates to send and receive nude images is not the only real problem. 51% of teens have received an unsolicited sext at least once. This is the equivalence of walking innocently on the street and having someone randomly walk up to you showing you their genitals.
Many times, if left unblocked, the same teen can send multiple these types of images numerous times.
The harassment can also present in the circulating of explicit images of a teen. Particularly alarming is the fact that 25% of teens who received sexts from people they know forwarded at least some of them to friends. Here the bullying is done unintentionally.
Social media is not particularly bad. As a matter of fact, there are several benefits of the internet (Social Media) for teens. But like most things in life, people find ways to abuse them. It is essential to keep on teens as many times this bullying and its effects can fly under the radar.
Read more on some of the lowkey ways cyberbullying presents.