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Turning Off Social Media – Generation Z

It seems that some members of Generation Z are abandoning some social media platforms or are considering doing so. Several teenagers interviewed for an article in The Guardian said they stopped using social media because they were tired of presenting a false persona on platforms such as Instagram or watching others being bullied online. Is this a trend or an aberration?

Should Schools Track What Students Type?

As reported by Quartz, some schools are tracking, word for word, anything an individual student types on a school computer using safety management platforms (SMPs), such as Gaggle, Securly, and GoGuardian. These platforms use natural language to scan each document looking for words or phrases that might indicate bullying, violent or self-harm behavior, sending flagged documents to a team of humans to review. The practice, however, is raising questions about how to balance school safety and students' privacy. Critics say that this kind of surveillance, even if students understand this kind of scrutiny is in place, normalizes a “Big Brother” state depriving students of the chance to control their own data. How is your school handling this issue?

STOPit App Fights Cyberbullying

While schools shouldn't rely solely on an app to fight cyberbullying and create a positive, supportive culture among their students, the STOPit app is a new tool being used by some districts this fall. A simple design and setup make it easy to get help quickly, especially for cyberbullying issues. On the app, students can anonymously report any bullying, self-harm, or violence concerns. A school administrator on the receiving end can then respond to address the issue. As some administrators point out, kids are often more comfortable reporting issues using technology rather than face-to-face.

App Developed in Attempt to Help Curb Cyberbullying

Researchers at the University of Colorado have developed an app that can alert school leaders and parents to the possibility that students are being bullied online. The BullyAlert app currently only monitors Instagram accounts, but developers say they are working to add other platforms and hope it will help schools curb cyberbullying. The developers are asking parents, guardians or other “well-wishers” to sign up for this abuse monitoring system and give feedback on its performance. The app is part of the CyberSafety Research Center’s cyberbullying research initiative. Examples of apps of the same genre include Auditor, which monitors Gmail for indicators of bullying or the potential intention of self-harm; Net Nanny, which lets parents monitor and filter kids’ online behavior; and STOP!t, which is used within schools and empowers students to report bullying.

Survey Says Teens Constantly Online

Forty-five percent of teenagers say they are online “almost constantly,” according to a new Pew Research Center study on teens and social media use. That percentage has nearly doubled in just a few years: in a 2014-2015 Pew survey, 24 percent of teens said the same. That rise in the “almost constantly” category is probably linked to “a pretty big jump” in teens who have access to smartphones, researchers say. 95% of teens have access to a smartphone in 2018, whereas three years ago, Pew reported that number was only 73%.

The results were also very interesting when it came to teens answering the question about whether social media has had a mostly positive (31%), neither positive nor negative (45%), or mostly negative (24%) effect on people their age. Adults tend to talk about the negatives of teen social media use in terms of addiction, but instead of addiction, more teens in the survey were worried about social media’s role in bullying and hurting relationships.

Be Best

First Lady Melania Trump is offering a new initiative for American children on the subjects of well-being, social media and opioid abuse. Her program is called simply, “Be Best.” Although the program focuses on some of the biggest issues facing children today, it has also received some criticism for merely being a repackaging of projects that already exist, including an initiative by the National Safety Council that encourages people to talk to their doctors about opioid abuse, and guidelines distributed by the Federal Trade Commission on children’s social media activity. Others have also criticized the title of the campaign, pointing out that children often worry too much about being the “best,” leading to issues such as depression, loss of self esteem, and even thinking that they deserve to be bullied because they feel they are not the “best.”

Digital Self Cyberbullying

More teenagers may be engaging in digital self-harm -- the practice of anonymously posting negative comments about themselves online. In a survey published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, about 6% of students said they have cyberbullied themselves.

Why is this happening? Some kids, who feared they would be bullied by other kids anyway, felt it was better to beat others to the punch or even possibly deflect the bullying since it would appear that some one else had bullied them first. Others could just be looking for attention from either adults or their peers - wanting to see who would worry about them or stick up for them, or even to show how tough they are. No matter what the cause, it is a trend parents need to be aware of and schools counselors will need to figure out how to contend with.

Twitter Joins Study to Reduce Abuse on the App

Twitter is participating in an experiment proposed by to determine whether displaying rules of behavior to its users can cut down on abusive content. Results of the study, which also aims at improved privacy protection, will be evaluated independently. Other similar research has shown that the clear display of rules by institutions makes people more likely to follow them. The news of this experiment could be an interesting discussion starter with kids on online abuse and etiquette. Do they think displaying the rules could change people’s behavior online?

Sandy Hook Mother Devises Program to Tackle School Violence and Bullying

Scarlett Lewis, mother of a student killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, has developed a free program that seeks to promote social and emotional learning and safety in schools and reduce bullying. Lewis says the Choose Love Enrichment Program is designed to bolster resiliency and other skills in students.

Six Steps To Protecting Your Children from Cyberbullying

Although Cyberbullying is a topic is written about extensively, it never hurts to review steps to protect your children. In a blog post on the Today Show’s parenting site, some basics are covered such as talking to your kids about cyberbullying, setting rules for and keeping track of your children’s online activities, finding reliable security software, reminding kids to save evidence of online harassment and reviewing the rules of netiquette.