February 4, 2014
According to Detective Sgt. Thomas Rich, a certified NJ police officer and the creator and founder of Always Connected, a program developed to “inform law enforcement, educators, administration, youth workers, youth groups, parents and children of all ages how to utilize technology in a positive way,” and Todd Shobel, President of STOPit, which is helping students, schools and parents stand up against cyberbullying through use of an innovative iPhone and Android app, the worst three social media sites for bullying are:
1. Facebook – Of course, cyberbullying is happening on Facebook, and despite the network’s recent decline in popularity among teens, millions still congregate there. One of the most common forms of bullying on Facebook is harsh commenting on users’ self-photos (selfies). It’s a vicious circle, really, as teens who post photos are often looking for positive affirmation and end up getting the opposite.
2. Instagram – An unfortunate byproduct of the rise of Instagram is the popularity of “rate me” posts or impromptu beauty contests. Teens, most frequently girls (but boys get into the act too), post pictures of themselves with a hashtag (#rateme, #hotornot) or referencing a contest (#custestteen) looking for likes or positive comments. Not surprisingly, many of the comments are anything but positive. Instagram users who set their accounts to private can avoid unwanted comments from strangers.
3. Ask.fm – From what Rich and Shobel have seen, the ratio of negative comments to positive ones is highest on Ask.fm, for a very straightforward reason. “Good” kids usually sign up for Ask.fm using their real name, but are not required to do so. Bullies are free to sign up for a fully anonymous account, and therefore can bully without fear of their real identity being uncovered. Ask.fm has been linked to 9 teen suicides in the past year.
The new STOPit app enables victims and witnesses of cyberbullying to instantly report incidents of cyberbullying to a trusted network of adults. There’s both a personal and school version of the app, and it’s available on both iOS and Droid. StopIt already has hundreds or personal users and a handful of New Jersey school districts signed up through its beta stage.