Twitter announced yesterday that it is improving the tools available for users to report cyberbullying and abuse, and may well set an example for the entire social media community, or at least send a message.
The changes at Twitter were rolled out to select users yesterday, and will be available to all users in the coming weeks. According to Twitter, the changes (we haven’t gotten the update yet) are as follows:
- A streamlined, easier process for reporting abuse
- Allow any user to report abuse, even if she is not directly involved
- Provide users with an easy way to see who they’ve blocked
- Prevent blocked users from viewing the profiles of those who have blocked them
- Twitter has enhanced its ability to respond to reports and review abusive accounts
Number 2 above is a big step forward in enabling better behavior, particularly among the teen community. The better behavior that we would like to see come to the fore is simple:
Online, we need more upstanders and fewer bystanders.
Bystander (definition) – one present but not taking part in a situation or event
Upstander (definition) – one who is willing to stand up and take action in defense of others
Cyberbullying and online harassment can be effectively policed by the community, only they aren’t, especially in the teen community. I’ve seen plenty of adult Twitter users stick up for one another, but haven’t seen the same among the high school crowd. According to recent statistics, 95% of teens who witness cyberbullying on social media report that other users ignored it, and those surveyed admitted that they ignored it too. When it comes to teens online, it’s easy to see why throwing cyberbullies under the bus is not all that appealing.
- Fear of reprisal
- Reporting other users often doesn’t work
- The bully is often popular
- Laughs are more engaging that snitching
What can parents do? First, focus on awareness. Familiarize yourself with the new Twitter reporting function (you just did!), and use it as a basis for talking to your teen about how to actually become an upstander.
If your teen is not active on Twitter, you can review similar functionality on Facebook, Instagram or whatever social sites she is using, and have a similar conversation.
Making teens aware that reporting abuse is easy and anonymous may be the first step in making sure that more teens do.
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