Facebook to beef up efforts to curb bullying


A smartphone user shows the Facebook application on his phone. (DADO RUVIC/REUTERS)
November 6, 2013

Facebook said it will beef up efforts to curb bullying on its site starting Wednesday as police, parents and educators sound greater alarm over the unmonitored and sometimes dangerous interactions among teenagers on social-media networks.

The company will make it easier for teens to contact an adult on the site when they feel bullied, and it will release talking points and guides for teens, parents and educators to deal with harassment.

But the anti-bullying effort does not apply to Instagram, Facebook’s popular photo-sharing app, which has been embraced by many young people,even some under the minimum entry age of 13.

Privacy and child advocates have called for greater attention to safety on Instagram and have criticized Facebook for having separate guidelines for the two sites. Harsh comments, threats and embarrassing photos shared on Instagram have spurred a greater number of bullying incidents across the country, according to law enforcement officials and educators.

The company said the two businesses function differently. The new Bullying Prevention Hub has been developed specifically for Facebook, and Instagram has its own policies for youth privacy and safety, the Silicon Valley firm said.

School yard bullying as always been a problem. But teens have now taken it online, and it has reached new, dangerous levels. Dr. Gwenn O'Keeffe, author of "Cybersafe," and Jonathan Patchin, co-director of The Cyberbullying Research Center explain. (The Washington Post)

“Rather than simply focus on awareness of this information, we’re putting it at people’s fingertips at the moment they need it most,” Facebook wrote in a blog announcing the effort.

A teen distressed by a comment, photo or video on Facebook can press a button to anonymously report the content as abusive. Facebook also will make it easy for the teen to connect to an adult within the youth’s network of friends when he or she is being bullied.

For teens, the company recommends: “It’s best to not approach the person who bullied you when you are upset. If you feel it is safe to talk to the person who bullied you, you might want to do so with a trusted friend or adult. Remember, bullying behavior is unacceptable and you have the right to stand up for yourself.”

Parents are given talking points such as: “I’m so sorry this happened to you, and I’m glad you told me. Can you tell me more about what happened and how you are feeling?”

The guides may seem basic, but can help foster trust between adults and youth, experts say. Teens often don’t report bullying to a parent because they are afraid the adult will overreact and exacerbate the problem, experts say.

Follow The Post’s new tech blog, The Switch, where technology and policy connect.

Cecilia Kang is a national technology reporter, writing about tech and Internet policies at the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission and how regulations affect businesses and consumers.
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