Rebecca Ann Sedwick was just like any other teenager; full of dreams, life and love. However, the 12-year-old Floridian was driven to the point where she made a conscious choice to compromise something as precious as her life for an escape from the unrelenting cyberbullying allegedly perpetrated by two girls, aged 12 and 14. While the former of the two suspects showed remorse over the death of Sedwick, the latter had this to say on Facebook: ““Yes ik [I know] I bullied REBECCA nd she killed herself but IDGAF [I don't give a f---].” Disturbing as it is, it’s not the only incident highlighting the online cruelty of teens. Countless kids occasionally or routinely experience abuse on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Ask.fm and various other online platforms.
The cruel world of social media
Social media might have worked well for some teenagers, as the approval and appreciation in digital space boosted their confidence. However, many teens have not been so lucky. Survey conducted by Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project brought some pretty alarming statistics to light. The result showed that 88 percent of the teens have either experienced or witnessed cyberbullying on social media websites. A vast majority of these teens, 90 percent to be more precise, admitted that they simply ignored such behavior instead of helping the victim out, whereas 21 percent accepted that they joined in as well.
Technology under scrutiny
Unlike schoolyard bullying, which is easier to recognize and defuse, online bullying is typically covert, remaining hidden from the watchful eye of concerned adults unless they’re aware of the risk. As a result, it’s seen as a much safer option by teens to express themselves without any inhabitations or fear of consequence. However, the notion that social media exposes the true nature of teens is fallacious. Kids who are mean or cruel online may not behave in a similar manner offline. Possibly, they’re not mentally or emotionally mature enough to understand the impact and implications of their online actions. They often say mean and cruel stuff only to provoke a response and attract attention, with no intention to inflict a deep emotional wound on the target. However, this should not be the justification for their behavior online.
Taming the online environment
Parents should educate their kids on social media etiquettes and discourage them from visiting sites where anonymity is an option. Instilling grit and emotional resilience in teens can help them to cope with online cruelty. In order to confirm whether teens are sticking to the lessons they’re being taught, parents may use parental control software to keep tabs on their online activities.