If you are working in a school setting, you’ve heard the word “bullying” a lot in the past few years. In fact, you’ve probably heard it so many times that the idea that teachers, schools, or communities might still be unresponsive or under-responsive to serious bullying incidents would seem laughable. Sadly, that is not the case. It seems that raising awareness is still an important part of the overall push to reduce bullying among students.
Today we are covering one of the most popular communication apps used by teens: Snapchat.
If you haven’t heard of Snapchat, here’s the short story.
Snapchat allows users to send text messages and images to friends that can only be viewed for a limited time (set by you) before the message “self-destructs.” Yes, this may sound similar to a Bond movie, but it’s actually a real thing and it’s a favorite of teens strictly because of its ephemerality. You see, today’s teens have learned from the mistakes of those just five years older than they who, as teens, committed comments and images to “permanent” social media and communication tools like MySpace, Facebook, blogs, forums, and texts. They’ve heard the horror stories of students who’ve lost their friends, their dignity, or even job opportunities because of poorly considered posts and pics.
For this reason, Snapchat makes a “safe” way to express oneself to friends without worrying if the image or message you craft should go down as part of your “permanent record” of commentary. Great solution, right? Sure.
But unfortunately it also makes an effective way for cyber bullies to victimize others and leave no evidence. This recent article (below) on this very topic demonstrates that as parents, educators, and communities, we still must keep our eyes wide open with regards to cyberbullying threats.
In this case what was most disturbing was the (reported) responses of teachers, the school, and community. Are we really still saying “Kids will be kids” when some of those kids are threatening each other’s lives? Despite all the highly visible cases of kids taking bullying to a level that is really frightening and disgusting (for example, still posting vicious things after a child has committed suicide), we still doubt it when kids come to us and say, “Someone is scaring me. He/She is threatening me or hurting me.” That has got to stop. That’s why we have to keep an eye on new developments. For all that Snapchat has benefits that protect teens from sticking their own feet permanently into their mouths, it also gives those looking for weapons the tools to strike and disappear.
If a student tells you he/she is being bullied over Snapchat, take it seriously.
Ask him/her to keep the next message that comes in so that you can see it too before it “self-destructs” and give credence to the students’ concerns. And remember to always, always, always look into any cases of concern and listen to the student. Are there sometimes more layers to bullying than simply one bully and one victim? Yes, that is often the case. Sometimes students are bullying one another back and forth, or there are additional players in the interaction. But we must pay attention, take it seriously, and understand the evolving ways that technology can facilitate cyber bullying.