Major news outlets have been busy lately reporting on social media confession pages, usually on Facebook or Twitter, that air the dirty laundry of students at a given school, district or region. These pages aren’t all that easy to find – schools and parents do their best to have the pages taken down as soon as they start causing a disruption in school, often spurred by a cyberbullying complaint.
How students use the pages vary. Some posts have kids venting about school-related topics or engaging other students humorously, but in some cases the page is an outright cyberbullying forum. Whether the page is harmless or toxic seems to depend on how the anonymous moderators solicit content.
We took a look at one of the more negative Twitter confession accounts that is still active, @YoCoFessions from the York County School District in Pennsylvania, to shed some light on what is really going on and what teens are posting.
Of the harmless variety:
Not so harmless:
Calling out a student by name in this manner is definitely not appropriate. As you can see, this is more of an allegation than a confession.
Again, totally inappropriate. Also, not a confession.
The moderators of confession pages remain anonymous by using a dummy account on Google, Ask.fm or a similar outlet to solicit content and generally go undiscovered until the police or school administrators appeal to the social network to take the account down. Even after an account is taken down, the person running the account is almost never brought to justice. In the case of the @YoCoFessions account, the operator feels that what he (she?) is doing is legal. We doubt it, but are not experts on Pennsylvania law.
The fact that confession pages exist speaks to one of the unfortunate truths of cyberbullying – when kids are anonymous they feel free to do things that they wouldn’t do face to face, or if there was risk of being found out. We have no doubt that some kids posting bullying comments or negative allegations are just trying to be funny and part of the “in crowd”. That doesn’t lessen the negative effect on those being bullied.
What can parents do? If your child is being bullied on an anonymous forum, you can report it to the school or the police. If your child is submitting “confessions”, there is not way for you to find out unless you are monitoring his every keystroke. If you are worried that your child is participating in the bullying, or may do so in the future, communication is the only way to ensure appropriate behavior. What is wrong in real life is wrong online, but online it often has a much broader audience and the evidence may be permanent.
Let’s hope this account gets shut down soon.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.