Social media has helped to connect our world. A small percentage, though, have used this connection in a negative way, leading to cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is defined as "the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature," according to the Oxford Living Dictionaries. Anyone can be affected by cyberbullying.
Fortunately, the biggest companies in the industry are making changes to help protect users. Here are some tools you can take advantage of to help work toward a better and safer online experience for everyone.
Since the platform’s creation, Twitter has placed an emphasis on both free speech and user safety as well as enjoyment. With the rise of cyberbullying awareness, the company has made some changes to their platform to make it easier to report, block and avoid unwanted content, such as:
- Preventing blocked users from creating new profiles: Now, the platform makes it more difficult for permanently banned users to find loopholes in the system and create new profiles under different names. In addition, according to Digital Spy, if Twitter users have tweets that are flagged as offensive, circulation of their tweets will be limited to their followers only. In order to make Twitter safer for everyone, you can report tweets that you find harmful to yourself or to others.
- Safe search and mute options: Blocked users’ posts or sensitive material will no longer show up on your feed. The company is collapsing unsavory replies on tweets so that they are hidden from public view. You can use the mute option on your account to hide specific keywords, phrases, or user accounts. Find the muting tool in your profile under the “Settings and Privacy” tab. At the bottom of the settings and privacy page, you can change your account’s muting options for other users. In the notifications tab, you can change your mute settings to filter notifications you don’t want to see.
- Encouraging greater reporting transparency: If you report offensive posts on Twitter, you will now receive notifications on any action that the social platform takes on that report. To find out more on how to follow your report, go to Twitter’s safety center.
Facebook’s platform provides a great way for friends, families, and others to interact. Facebook has a bullying prevention hub, which in partnership with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, has worked to decrease bullying on the platform.
One major Facebook update from this hub is the site’s reporting tool for take-down requests, which not only lets users report a photo or comment that they want taken down but allows those users to interact anonymously to resolve the conflict. The tool asks users why they reported this content and sends the responses directly to the user who posted the offending content. Using language that humanizes the problem such as “[the content] is embarrassing,” the tool shows bullies the consequences of their actions. According to the platform, 85% of offenders who receive take-down requests either delete the post or send a positive reply.
Using this tool and others in Facebook’s prevention hub can keep bullies from targeting you and your family. By reporting content that you find harmful to yourself and others, you can take control of your safety on the platform. To learn more, visit Facebook’s anti-bullying safety hub.
Instagram is an image sharing social media platform that is also working to disengage cyberbullying activities. Instagram now has several features that help users shut down harmful user accounts.
- Disable comments: One such feature is the ability to completely disable comments on your photos. With this feature, located in the advanced settings menu, you can prevent followers from commenting on your photos.
- Filter comments by keyword: If you don’t want to disable comments completely, you can filter comments by keyword or content. Use Instagram’s comment filtering features in the settings and select either the “hide inappropriate comments” to cut out all content typically reported as offensive or select custom keywords.
- Safety Center: For more Instagram safety tips and security updates, you can visit the Instagram safety center.
Snapchat is a digital messaging and image sharing platform whose messages disappear after about 10 seconds. As a disappearing message platform, the app is constantly pushing the limits of what social media communications can be, but also wants to keep its users safe. In fact, one of the platform’s main features may be helping to reduce cyberbullying. Users may screenshot Snapchat image messages (snaps), but the snap’s sender will be alerted when one of their posts is screenshotted. While a screenshot sacrifices the reporter’s anonymity, it also encourages accountability. This forced accountability and the threat of getting caught can help decrease the possibility of bullies posting in the future. To learn more about Snapchat’s reporting tools, visit the app’s safety center.
While cyberbullying remains a persistent problem, social media companies are working to make their platforms safer for users. Staying up-to-date and utilizing new safety features can help you to protect yourself and your family from bullying online.