Many high schools across the country are dealing with bullying and fall-outs from the new app, Burnbook. While anything in the latest app-form seems cutting edge, the idea of the “Burn” or “Slam” book has been around for as long as composition note books and pencils (note: even before the movie Mean Girls, 80’s YA novels dealt a heavy-handed lesson when it came to anonymous bullying.) Burnbook, however- an app that lets users target and attack specific people with name-calling, public shaming, and even violent threats- is slightly different in today’s ever-shrinking, all-too-public world, thanks to the viral capacity of social networking. What was once “name-calling” on the playground has evolved into a tweet or comment that can reach thousands of followers in just minutes, and the results can be long-lasting, deeply damaging, and even deadly.
While users who download the app don’t even need a username or an account to log in and post content, the shroud of anonymity has escalated the scale of cyber-bullying, more so than similar apps, Yik-Yak or Whisper. Burnbook even allows the user to zero in on certain body parts of people within a community, such as a high school, tagging and attacking others in an attempt to humiliate, intimidate and threaten.
Sadly, cyber-bullying is now a wide spread phenomenon. According to a recent National Crime Victimization Survey of students in grades 9-12, many had found themselves at the center of an on-line attack:
- 71.9% reported being cyber-bullied once or twice in the school year
- 19.6% reported once or twice a month
- 5.3% reported once or twice a week
- 3.1% reported almost everyday
While the truth is, social media use among teens is always intimidating to parents and schools (such as with the once feared SnapChat, which now even schools and colleges embrace as a marketing tool), many teens download and use apps to connect with friends in harmless, new and convenient ways. Taking ownership of your social networking life and using it in a positive way is the only means to counteracting those who use apps and social platforms to hurt others with negative words and images.
A Few Tips For Using Apps and Social Media:
-Never write a comment or post an image that you wouldn’t want a parent or college admission officer to see. And believe me, they can find a way to see it, no matter how tight you think your privacy settings are.
-Spread positivity! If you don’t have anything nice to say, why say anything? Use social media as a way to leave happy and light messages or share music and cute videos. Save serious conversations for when you are in person or on the phone with a friend or family member.
-Use social media as a way to truly connect with friends- don’t add strangers to your social network, and keep it exclusive for the people in your life you care about.
-If you see cyber bullying take place, call attention to it. Mean people are the worst; call them out, tell an adult, rally in defense of the victim. Studies show that more than half of all cyber bullying instances stop when a peer intervenes. When the target of on-line bullying sees that others condemn negative statements and harassment, you can truly make a difference in that person’s life.
Have you or a friend ever experienced on-line bullying? How did you cope with the situation? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
For more information on cyber bullying, visit the Megan Meier Foundation website.