In recent years, we’ve seen a growing number of teens engage in cyberbullying, as well as a growing number of teens kill themselves over the torment. Better late than never, Facebook, the world’s most popular social media site, is instituting a new anti-bullying initiative to counter the rash of cyberbullying occurring on its site, particularly among its teenage users.
To counter this emerging culture of peer-to-peer cruelty, Facebook teamed with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence to create the Bullying Prevention Hub. Though prior efforts have been made to raise awareness on the subject of bullying, this new program aims to address the problem directly. According to a Facebook blog post, the Bullying Prevention Hub will “offer important tools to help people stand up for each other when they see bullying behavior, both online and off.”
When people, specifically teens, see bullying, there will be a button nearby to report instances of bullying. There will also be a second button asking the young bullying victims whether they’d like to connect with an adult (someone they are already “friends” with on Facebook) to talk about the bullying.
The hope is that by making it easy to involve a trusted adult in cases of bullying, the victim will receive emotional support and no longer feel alone. In many cases, due to a lack of communication and awareness, adults are in the dark about bullying, particularly bullying that occurs on the internet.
Of course, adults aren’t always innocent of cyberbullying children themselves. A Michigan woman was caught harassing her young, terminally ill neighbor online. More recently, a group of moms making fun of toddlers with developmental disabilities was exposed on Facebook. Other times, the reverse is true and adults are the subject of teenagers’ bullying. In particular, there is a rising trend of students ganging up against their teachers on online forums.
It is not yet clear what repercussions – if any — users reported for bullying will face from Facebook. However, the Bullying Prevention Hub assures that the alleged bullies will become part of the conversation as well. The site says it will offer “guidance to the person accused of bullying on what he or she has done and how he or she can do better.”
Truthfully, some of the scripts and conversation-starters Facebook employs to facilitate discussions between victims, bullies, and adults seem pretty hokey and might be a turn-off for teens. That said, Facebook developed these suggestions after consulting with bullying prevention experts, so there is research and experience to back up the methods.
Whether the Hub will prove successful, however, is another issue. For what it’s worth, Facebook has showed early commitment to monitoring the program and ensuring that it works. On December 5, Facebook will hold “Compassion Research Day” to unveil early data on how it users have used the anti-bullying app.
Nevertheless, Facebook is already facing criticism for not bringing the same changes to its popular Instagram app. Since the photo sharing offshoot has become the new popular place for teens and kids to interact, much of the cyberbullying now takes place there instead.