NPR recently posted an article about Facebook’s latest attempts to combat cyberbullying. Turns out that Facebook saw a decrease in the number of teen users over the last year; NPR reports that when polled this fall, only 23 percent of teens thought that Facebook was the most important social network, down from 42 percent last fall. It’s possible that this drop in users is at least tangentially related to the increasingly negative cyber world experienced by tweens and teens. Facebook now offers a Bullying Resource Hub page on its site for users experiencing/instigating/mediating bullying. The page offers “Tools, tips and programs that help people stand up for each other,” which include steps to both prevent and take action against bullying.
Some groups, however, say Facebook’s effort to combat bullying is “too little, too late,” and argue that Facebook is in fact part of the problem. In the wake of news stories like the one recently out of St. Petersburg, FL, where a 15-year-old girl sent malicious texts to three former friends resulting in felony charges for aggravated stalking, many believe that Facebook should do more to monitor users’ actions. Meanwhile, others recognize that while this may be a bit of a belated effort, it is at least a step in the right direction. Through the hub, Facebook is “beginning to roll out more options for teens to report when posts are making them uncomfortable,” and builds on Facebook’s existing tools that make it possible to ask members to take down photos that they do not want posted.
At first glance, the Bullying Prevention Hub is pretty extensive. There are numerous pages and links that guide parents, educators, partners and teens through ways to fight back against bullying, suggestions of what to do and when, and reminders about how to use the tools that currently exist on Facebook. One page linked on the hub, iKeepSafe, is a non-profit with a mission to “increase digital citizenship worldwide through online safety, security, and ethics.” Pages and links like iKeepSafe, and Facebook’s new partnership with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, help to legitimize the social media platform’s efforts. Maybe Facebook’s latest efforts will help or maybe they still won’t be enough. And with millions of teen and tween users, eliminating all cyberbullying is probably impossible. But if Facebook does not take responsibility to protect its users, it could be bad for business as well.Katelin Santhin Graduate Student, MA in Emerging Media Program Loyola University Maryland firstname.lastname@example.org