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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Instagram bullying: ‘Portal of pain’ for teens

Teens love Instagram — and use it to express their hate for anyone who steps outside social norms. Seventy-two percent of teens use Instagram, reports the Pew Research Center. “The app can become a portal of pain” allowing “mean girls” to spread their malice, writes Taylor Lorenz in The Atlantic.

Fifty-nine percent of teens say they’ve been bullied online, reports Pew. In a 2017 survey by Ditch the Label, an anti-bullying group, more than one in five 12-to-20-year-olds said they’d been bullied on Instagram.

“Instagram is many teens’ entire social infrastructure,” writes Lorenz. “At its most destructive, bullying someone on there is the digital equivalent of taping mean flyers all over someone’s school, and her home, and her friends’ homes.”

Teenagers have always been cruel to one another. But Instagram provides a uniquely powerful set of tools to do so. The velocity and size of the distribution mechanism allow rude comments or harassing images to go viral within hours. Like Twitter, Instagram makes it easy to set up new, anonymous profiles, which can be used specifically for trolling. Most importantly, many interactions on the app are hidden from the watchful eyes of parents and teachers, many of whom don’t understand the platform’s intricacies. . . . many teens create hate pages: separate Instagram accounts, purpose-built and solely dedicated to trashing one person, created by teens alone or in a group. They’ll post bad photos of their target, expose her secrets, post screenshots of texts from people saying mean things about her, and any other terrible stuff they can find.

Instagram has launched tools to “limit bullying and spread kindness.” Instagram says its “new algorithm is trained to flag photos and captions that include attacks on a person’s appearance or character, as well as threats to a person’s well-being or health,” reports Wired. Several months ago, “Instagram expanded its offensive comment filter to automatically remove comments with attacks or threats to individual users.”

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