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Tyler Percival is a blogger, who’s passionate about literature and providing information to parents from a millennial perspective
May 15, 2017
Instagram is one of the premier photo share platforms in social media today, charting over 700 million active users. From afar it seems fun and innocent and playful – pretty pictures of your friend’s latest vacation, a few cute puppies wrestling for a tennis ball, a group shot of the team after a big win, you know, those happy moments that you want to share.
But if you begin to look closer, some darker crevasses of the platform grow apparent. Many parents worry about Snapchat and its disappearing pictures, and give Instagram easy passage as the cuddlier, safer platform, but recently the Instagram community is riddled with cyberbullying. Jennifer Holladay from Education Digest defined cyberbullying as “the repeated use of technology to harass, humiliate, or threaten,” all three of which are found in a number of ways on Instagram.
Often bullies post malicious photos of unwilling subjects to make fun of them, leave harmful, cruel, or threatening comments on others’ posts, or create fake accounts aimed at impersonating and degrading the victim. Don’t be fooled by the flowers, sunny days, and bright filters, Instagram has a cyberbullying issue that parents must be aware of.
Instagram presents a particularly emotionally challenging environment, as most kids follow and are followed by their peers and friends from school and extracurricular activities. Any harassment online extends into the social setting in the classroom, on the team, or in the after-school club.
Bullies use the impersonal veil of the internet as a cloak to harass targets from afar that they see and possibly interact with on a daily basis, inflicting social damage that extends far past the Instagram community and can spread to every aspect of a victim’s social life.
As Instagram is a large part of your children’s lives and social experience, it is very difficult to cut it out entirely. But the problem must be addressed.
The comment section is the hub for conversation on Instagram, and often becomes a site for abusive words and insults (ugly, slut, lose weight, etc.) that can be extremely damaging to the target’s self-esteem.
As the community leaving comments is often the victim’s peers, these words have a damaging effect on the victim’s reputation and deeply shake their social life. These words are often how kids form opinions about themselves and have lasting effects on self-esteem and reputation.
Instagram recently rolled out a new feature that allows the user to disable comments on a picture. If the comment section reeks with hate, shut it down!
Root out the problem where it grows.
Teach your child to report cyberbullying to Instagram so the company can disable or suspend the bully, or delete any fake accounts with mean intentions. If a classmate of your child carries out the offense, notify the school of the incident.
Support your report with a screenshot, so further action can be taken to educate the bully on the consequences of cyberbullying and other malicious behavior. Not only does it rob the bully of his platform, reporting them may teach a lesson for your kids and the aggressor.
At a fundamental level, the most important task you can accomplish as a parent in fighting bullying is to stop the empowerment and spread of bullies in your home.
Inform your children of the real consequences of cyberbullying, as they may not understand that online words and behavior do not stay in the online world. These actions are attached to real people. Teach them not to empower bullies by joining in on the attack, or by liking and sharing cruel content. Sometimes kids may just think it is funny and they do not understand the damage they are doing.
You are the primary support system if your child is the victim of cyberbullying, encourage them to ignore the bullies and teach them that responding with more hate is never the answer. Bullying is a chain, responding to hate with hate never solves the problem.
It is important to understand that Instagram and social media are not a standalone issue. But Instagram has grown to be a platform that attracts the issue of cyberbullying, because kids dissociate from who’s a real person behind an online profile.
The best way to fight the spread of bullying is educating your child to break the chain and rise above the low and hateful words of cyberbullies on Instagram and other platforms. If your child is facing a bully online, try our tips for 6 Proven Ways to Stop Cyberbullying.