Cyberbullying and its impact on Gen Z is on the rise. It’s so dangerous that 20% of kids cyberbullied think about committing suicide. And unfortunately, some do just like 12-year old Rebecca Ann Sedwick, and she’s one of the youngest on a growing list.
At this fragile stage of life where already 4,500 kids commit suicide each year, cyberbullying triples suicide risk in teens, and girls are twice as vulnerable. Shocking statistics climb every day. 58% of Gen Zs report someone has been hurtful or mean to them online, while 30% report being the victim or bullying someone online.
Across the news media, a controversial debate is heating up: WHO is responsible for cyberbullying, and WHO is going to stop it? Concerned adults are pointing fingers at schools and parents. But the parents cannot keep up, and not all parents want to. And is it the teacher’s responsibility? The entities that seem to be avoiding responsibility are the Social Media firms themselves, the creators of these social empires that provide the social platforms, which enable cyber-bullying to occur. Social Media needs to take Social Responsibility for What’s Happening within the Social Empires that they’ve created.
Here’s what Social Media could do to help stop cyberbullying:
- Invest more time and assistance in their consumer who is using their product 24/7. For a CPG, liability generally ends when a consumer purchases their product. But in this case, the transaction never ends. The consumer has a much deeper relationship with their social media platform – probably the most active, intense and revealing relationship ever. I give a lot of time and information to Facebook, what do they give me aside from a platform?
- Facebook needs to allocate some of their $Billions to support cyberbullying victims. Perhaps support a third-party 24/7-crisis hotline with trained counselors where you can report cyber-bullies and speak to a sympathetic voice. Calls to ChildLine in the UK have nearly doubled in a year amid claims that social networking sites are failing to act fast enough to stop the sickening trend.
- Provide more personal monitoring, from afar: Facebook needs to add more staff and systems in place to monitor posting activity in real time and immediately turn off accounts where hateful messages or photos are sent. Cyber-bullies and trollers should be listed or tagged, just like sex-offenders and the social media empires can oversee this.
- Help fund a school detective. A school district in CA hired Geo Listening to monitor social media. The cost is $40,000 per school district, but may be worth it if proven to help. I like this idea because it lets the teachers focus on teaching.
- Offer social media ethics classes: Nearly all Gen Zs – over 80% of teens – are engaged in social media and cellphone applications 7+ hours a day, but without ever learning any guidelines or adult supervision. Young children have no concept of how their taunting words can hurt someone. I recently learned of a “Cyber Civics” program to teach kids the right and wrong of social media – and it’s working. (see cyberwise.org)
Does Facebook Take Any Social Responsibility?
According to Facebook, they offer several anti-bullying services including a Family Safety Center and associated page, along with its “Stop Bullying: Speak Up” page the social network launched last year. “Fans” or subscribers receive regular updates on Facebook’s efforts to combat cyberbullying and tips on how to stay safe.”
Another one: “In March 2012 Facebook introduced Trusted Friend Anti Cyberbullying Campaign. Check a box next to offensive post and message sent to a trusted friend.” While it’s good to tell a friend, that won’t stop the cyberbullying.
Campaigns and policies all sound and look good from a corporate and legal perspective, but when you’re dealing with children’s emotions and lives, stronger actions are needed.
Social Media created these social empires; they need to take responsibility and patrol their empires so more cyberbullying and suicides don’t occur. We can’t let cyber-bullies get away with their acts because they’ll only get worse. Social networking sites will continue to roll out, and be embraced by the wired Gen Zs.
Cracking down on cyberbullying “takes a village” and I hope the Social Media empires will move in for our kid’s sake.