Today, kids are confronted with the same schoolyard issues of the past – bullying, practical jokes, insults, name calling, and other childish games. What was once relegated to school hours and stayed on the playground, has now been amplified by modern technology and advances in communication. The world we raise kids in is all about instant messages, texting, apps, and social media – sometimes these technologies can even overlap. We will be discussing the phenomena of “group messaging” and it’s effect on children.
The harm can occur when children begin to develop an understanding of a communication going viral. All people want to be liked and nobody enjoys being the subject of an insult or joke, especially when it spreads across a group message. A group message is a form of communication that involves one user sending a message to several of their contacts at the same time. This creates an instant gang of people all chiming in and commenting on the message – this can occur in texts, email, and using apps.
In the past, when a bully was poking fun at a peer those involved had to be at that specific place and could opt to watch, join, leave, or help. In the case of group messaging the bully can instantly and easily garner huge participation in a few clicks. Those that get the message are immediately involved, no matter if they like it or not, because the message is in full view. There is further confusion surrounding this type of bullying, because It’s not clear how to help a victim in this situation as it is when the bullying happens in real life. Also, it’s difficult for the victim to thwart these types of acts as quickly as a physical or verbal retaliation in person. Ease of mass communication, photo sharing, and video sharing is on one hand a major technological advance and on the other hand it can be used as a tool utilized to bully.
Group messaging is intended to be offensive to the victim; however, in many instances people receiving the message are equally as offended. It can be disturbing to receive a message and have the realization that it’s from a bully, even if your not the intended victim. Most sensitive people will feel terrible for the person being bullied. Also, for kids it creates a situation in which they feel compelled to partcipate in the group messaging and then subtlety become a part of the bullying. These types of decision are just not appropriate for children developing their social understandings. It’s a lot of responsibility for kids and teens to be juggling, especially when this type of technology is often at their fingertips via their cell phones.
In order to balance keeping technology in our kids’ lives and controlling group messaging and bullying, parents must take an active role. Although parents are equally bombarded with a continuous flow of technology, they should put behaviors in perspective and explain safe usage. Another important aspect to controlling bullying via group messaging is to make kids aware of what it is and have them communicate to a responsible adult when it occurs. Children should be taught at a young age the type of empathy necessary to be a respectful and handle being bullied or participating in a group message.
An important step to teaching about group messaging and bullying is to have an understanding about where and when it occurs. Let’s take a closer look at the different technologies that incorporate group messaging.
1. Text Messaging – Today, every mobile device has text messaging. This makes almost very situation tempting for a bully. Bullies are taking photos and video of their victim and using that snapshot or video clip to quickly add contacts to a group message. Instantly they are harassing their victim while using the gang mentality of group messaging to further intimidate their victim. The message is pushed to the front screen of all who are sent the note without regard to their willingness to participate. As an example, the embarrassing moment at school now follows the kid after school and the victim knows that a percentage of people receiving the message can further forwarded it on to their contacts – this is the viral power.
2. Email – The effect of the group messaging is the same with email as in text messaging. Email is also accessible over the phone and on desktops. This demonstrates how something as so vital to positive and essential communications can be utilized to bully.
3. Social networking – Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and many others typically have a method of group messaging. When a bully wants to inflict damage on social networks it can reach more people than the bully could have imagined or intended. Social networks are designed to easily share a message and have each who receive it continue to pass it forward. Again, preventing this type of bullying needs to be understood and explained to kids. In many of these social networks there are ways to report a user. Taking this type of action isn’t a total solution, but at least it’s a start and there’s some sort of accountability.
4. Apps – There are many messaging apps on mobile devices that are designed to communicate over the data network and these bypass using the phone network. Applications such as WhatsApp even allow group messaging to connect people all over the world, without international rates. The popularity of this apps are wide spread and some even instantly share the message with social networks – it’s a double communication and double impact on bullying.
When parents, teachers, and other adult supervisors are fully aware of the various types of technologies used by a bully via group messaging, it’s only then that education and teaching ways to control it can happen. Also, it makes confronting the problem easier and quicker, because it can be identified and managed when it happens. The bottom line is that these channels of communication are here to stay so having a full grasp of their power – positive and negative – is extremely important.
The age old problem of bullying has not disappeared, but today it is more actively labeled, identified, and punished. Many schools and organizations have strict policies surrounding bullying and it’s often met with zero toleration. This type of firm attitude about bullying will hopefully keep our kids safe and less likely to either be victimized or participate in the act.
The fact that technology typically keeps logs and proof of activity, it makes it simple to present evidence of bullying and it can be met with harsh punishments. This is positive; however, we must not forget that kids need to learn from mistakes and be taught where the lines are drawn. In many instances, the potential exists for kids to be labeled a bully because of their commenting around group messaging, when in reality they are just not aware of the severity of those actions. This is my it’s essential to start teaching about the effect of their actions and power of even a simple text message or social media comment.
The time to start the education process should be at a young age and re-enforced by educators. Also, the tech world will likely integrate various methods inside their technologies to manage bullying taking the form of group messaging. It only takes one wrong impulse to act upon to unravel a serious of consequences. Hopefully, through the attempts to minimize this type of bullying will work and lift the burden from many who are victimized. The fact is that bullying is a phenomenon that is here to stay; however, as a society we have a duty to control where and how it occurs. This type of aggressive approach is a great way to ensure that our kids can be raised in a world without fear of using devices and communicating without a bully following their every connection to the digital world.
The time has come, in the digital age, to embrace control, safety, and a full understanding of the potential negative impact these tools can have on development. It’s should be an effort to have these technologies truly shine and not to suppress them in our lives.
If you agree with the message here, please share this article via group messaging and use that viral power to educate and create a healthy digital environment for the future.