Facebook vs Cyberbullies Who Will Win?

by Jason Finkelstein- May 1, 2012 • 12:20 pm

A few days ago Facebook introduced a new support dashboard for reporting and tracking incidences of cyberbullying.

While it’s good to see Facebook making strides towards curbing cyberbullying in their community, all the dashboard does is help parents and kids track abuse reports. It doesn’t add any extra reporting features or new methods of deterring cyberbullying.

Is the ability to report abuse really enough, or should Facebook have taken greater strides towards getting their cyberbullying problem under control?

We think the answer is clear.

Most teens who are bullied don’t speak up

Pew conducted a survey that found that at least 15% of teens are cyberbullied. Even worse, only about a third of kids who have witnessed cyberbullying went to an adult for advice.

If most kids aren’t even talking to their parents, it seems extreme unlikely that they would initiate the formal process of filing a complaint with Facebook. The report button may be there, but teens either feel intimidated by telling others about the problems they’re having or worry about being perceived as a “snitch” and suffering the additional harassment that incurs.

A dashboard for tracking harassment report does nothing to help solve the problem if victims are reluctant to step up and report cyberbullies in the first place.

Doesn’t solve the root of the problem

While removing offensive content from a teen’s profile may sooth the immediate sting of a putdown or embarrassing picture, it does nothing to address the root of the problem: cyberbullies themselves.

Cyberbullying is not a one-off thing. I remember seeing kids get hassled as I grew up—usually one student or a group of students target specific victims over a long period of time. That sort of sustained harassment both on and offline can take a serious emotional toll on children which can affect the rest of their childhood and feed into insecurities in their adult life.

How to really deal with cyberbullying

Facebook should obviously be doing more to stop cyberbullies, but in the meantime, there are steps you can take to make sure that your kids feel safe online.

There are a lot of guides out there about how to deal with cyberbullies, like this one from the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team or this one from Time.

In essence, what they boil down to is that you should talk with your kids about cyberbullying and keep up with what’s going on in their online lives. This is a solid idea. Many of the 2/3rds of kids who don’t speak up about cyberbullying may do so when an adult asks them about it directly.

You could broach the topic casually during dinner or on the way to school. Try asking them if they think people are generally mean to each other on Facebook. This sort of general, conversational question may help them open up about their own problems on Facebook which they may have felt the need to hide if you asked them if they have been cyberbullied directly.

If you do find your kids are getting cyberbullied, one strategy you can take is to suggest that they block the people who are harassing them on Facebook. Blocking can help address some of the holes in Facebook’s harassment reporting system.

For example, if you block someone, it’s impossible for them to post on your Facebook page. This can help stop teasing before it even begins. You can find instructions on how to block someone here.

What do you think Facebook should do to stop cyberbullying? Or, are they already doing enough?

Photo via wentongg.

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