Social media is increasingly how many younger people communicate these days, but according to a new report from McAfee, there has been an increase of cyberbullying on the platforms. What is especially worrisome is that it isn’t just teens who are coming under attack, as racist attacks are being directed at children as young as 10-years-old.
In addition, more than one in four kids globally now face some form of racism on social media; while online sexual harassment is also impacting one in every six children globally. One in every five U.S. kids is now victim of such harassment, and in India the number is as great as one in three.
More Than Stranger Danger
What is also notable is that the threat of cyberbullying is increasingly coming from someone who the children may know personally. Globally, 58 percent of children said they were victimized by someone they know, with just 46 saying they had been cyberbullied by a stranger.
Children are also more worried than ever that they may be bullied online. Currently, six in 10 kids globally said they were more worried about cyberbullying than last year. The “good news” – if it can even be called that – is that 71 percent of children have told their parents they had experienced cyberbullying.
Are The Platforms Doing Enough?
Even as the platforms have strived attempted to improve safety, some are doing more than others. Meta apparently still has work to do, as the respondents to the McAfee survey said that cyberbullying occurs more than twice as often when comparing social media platforms like Meta’s Facebook to Twitter—and more than four times the rate when comparing Meta’s messaging app WhatsApp to Discord.
Facebook had been found to lead the way with the highest rate of children both witnessing (53 percent) and experiencing (50 percent) cyberbullying worldwide, with Instagram coming in at a close second with witnessing cyberbullying at 40 percent and experiencing cyberbullying at 30 percent.
McAfee has noted that while more than half of parents are talking to their children about different forms of cyberbullying, there is still vastly more that needs to be done to understand the growing threat of online safety for children. What remains a concern is that children may not consider behaviors such as jokes and name-calling to be harmful online – and perhaps may go further than they might when compared to an in-person exchange.
“Despite having some of the most engaged parents, children in the U.S. experience among the highest rates of cyberbullying in its most extreme forms, such as sexual harassment, compromised privacy, and personal attacks,” said Gagan Singh, McAfee executive vice president and chief product officer.
“It’s no surprise that globally we’ve reached the point in the adoption curve where social media is integrated into all areas of our lives – adults and children alike,” Singh explained via an email. “It is especially important to understand how daily social media interactions across platforms impact our children. This data clearly shows where, how, and at what frequency children are experiencing cyberbullying online globally, giving parents the knowledge to help their children stay safe wherever they live and on whatever platform they use.”
Of course it should be noted that adults are hardly good role models on the platforms. In recent years, social media has become an echo chamber that is used to amplify political sentiment and to tear down the other side. Given this fact, many adult users have become bad role models for their children.
It is well-past time that these platforms return to being about the social.
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