Instagram Resources for Bullying and Self-Injury Victims

Instagram logoInstagram is a community of sorts, so it makes sense that you would be able to report people in the community who are harming you, or who appear to be at risk of harming themselves.

We’ll be the first to admit that Instagram has done a good job creating such resources for users, and they are getting better. This week they announced that they are extending their helpline resources to a number of additional countries in Asia including Japan, Korea and Singapore.

The way the self-harm resources work is that an algorithm is running in the background that attempts to identify and reach out to users who appear to be at risk, and then offer to connect that user to a third party organization that can offer support.

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Let’s take a look at an example. This morning, we opened the search window and typed “cutting”, a hashtag frequently (too frequently) used by people who are engaged in self-harm. Workout fanatics also use that hashtag, which is probably why Instagram hasn’t killed it off entirely. When we proceeded to the search results, the message at right is displayed. If you click “Get Support” you are prompted with the options of messaging a friend, contacting a helpline or clicking thorough to a list of tips and support resources.

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If we instead opt to see the search results, we might be unlucky enough to see the image at right. This user claims to be in recovery, but does not appear to be doing very well. If you are so inclined, you can report that user to Instagram and hope that they’ll facilitate some sort of help.

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To that end, if you want to report anybody else’s account to Instagram, either because the account or a post is in any way inappropriate (self-harm, illegal activity, pornography…) or because you are being cyberbullied, click the three dots (…) at top right and the menu at right appears. The top two choices on the following screen allow you to report a user who appears to be a risk of self-injury, or to report an incident or harassment or bullying.

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Finally, there is help for users who are the victim of abusive comments posted under their posts. You can report those as well, but it’s a little trickier. If you see an abusive comment, tap the comment bubble below the pic and swipe left on the offending comment. You can then delete the comment (a great option) or tap the “!” (pictured at right) and report the comment.

Note: In our experience Instagram is not all that responsive to user inquiries so we aren’t sure how well these options work. In their defense, we have not heard reports of users complaining to Instagram about abuse and not getting resolution, as is often the case with Twitter.

 

 

 

If you are worried that your teen or tween is at risk, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

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Whisper App is Enabling Dangerous Teen Behavior

Whisperwhisper-app-home is an anonymous, GPS enabled app that has been rising in popularity since its launch in 2012. It hasn’t blown up like Snapchat or Instagram, but it is steadily growing its user base, particularly among teens and millennials.

We wrote in January about a glaring challenge for parents who are interested in monitoring their teen on Whisper. Unless you have your teen’s phone in your hand, logged in, you will not even be able to figure out which user is your child, much less monitor posts and interactions.

To see what your teen has been up to on Whisper, you’ll need to access his or her phone (do you know the home screen password?), open the Whisper app, click on the Activity tab and enter the PIN number (yes, you need that too). We understand that it’s a lot of work and you’ll need your teen’s cooperation…

The biggest problem with Whisper isn’t cyberbullying, as is the case with many other anonymous platforms. Nor is the problem that many of the user posts are confessions. A teen saying, “I have a crush on my lab partner,” or “I got into Stanford and I really don’t want to go” isn’t much of a problem at all.

The problem as we see it that the user community is becoming a support group for young users either into self-harm, secretly living a life of destructive behavior, or both.

whisper-examplesThe search function on Whisper works well, and a user searching for hashtags such as #thinspo (inspiration for eating disorder sufferers), #proana (pro anorexia), #promia (pro bulimia), #cutting (self mutilation), or posts related to suicide or instagram-warningsubstance abuse will find plenty of posts, supportive users and peers to connect with.

It is worth noting that Whisper falls far short of another prominent app, Instagram, in keeping kids safe and mentally healthy. For example, on Instagram if you search for #thinspo, a warning message pops up (pictured at right) including a link to resources for support of eating disorder sufferers. Whisper offers no such warnings or support.

It is our opinion that Whisper should be much more proactive in offering a safer user experience in the cases where young people stumble across harmful behaviors, and more resources for those who are currently suffering.

As is the case with a lot of problematic teen internet use, the solution lies in communication between parents and kids. Given how Whisper works, open communication is absolutely the first line of defense, or first step in charting a better course of behavior.

If someone from Whisper reads this and would like to offer comment, we’re all ears.

 

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