Last year, Will Haskell’s high school classmates shut down their school with the power of words. This wasn’t an act of free intellectual spirits sticking it to the man. It was the result of a bullying, facilitated through the popular app Yik Yak, which enables students to write statuses anonymously.
Unfortunately, Haskell’s story isn’t unique. According to Renee Hobbs, the head of Media Education at the University of Rhode Island, at least 25 percent of teens between the ages of 11 and 18 experience some kind of cyber bullying. She says these hurtful posts and comments can lead to sleeplessness, attention problems, and self-esteem issues. Everyone within the school community is affected, as it is hard to create a learning environment when the students lack respect and trust.
So why do they continue to spread negativity? Apparently, it’s not just the power of anonymity that lures a teenager to write controversial posts. Hobbs believes that it’s all tied to the “Let’s start drama phenomenon.”
“Kids are exploring how to use their social power. To discover the power of language and how to use the social reality around them,” explains Hobbs in an interview with the Pulse.
Forbidding students to post on anonymous apps like Yik Yak on school grounds is not an effective way of dealing with the problem. Instead, teachers and school administrators are coming up with new methods of teaching students how to be responsible. Curriculums like Sticks and Stones and encouraging students to spread positivity through social media will help them on the path of becoming a “Digital Citizen.”
Additionally, parents could help by keeping tabs on the kinds of apps that are on their children’s phones and be aware of the app’s ratings. These steps help students to seek out their digital identity while creating a caring environment.