Have you ever stumbled across websites that allow you to leave anonymous messages and feedback for other people? If you haven’t, that’s probably for the best. As a student or young person, you may have used or seen a peer using websites for this purpose. We will not name these websites because we do not want to promote their platform in any way; we do not condone their usage. However, as a parent you may have seen links to these websites on your child’s social media - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat.
One of the most popular sites, which we aren’t naming, is a website - a free service - that allows people to give anonymous feedback (positive or negative) to the person that sent them the URL. You can post the URL to a social media profile and any of your followers have immediate access to anonymously say anything they would like to you. Pause and think for a moment. Is this a good idea?
The internet has ushered in a new age of anonymity. Sure, in the late twentieth century you could use *67 to make a prank call by hiding your number, but that’s not the same. Now, bullies, trolls, or whatever you want to call these malicious people, have a “wall” to hide behind. Cyberbullying may sound like a joke to some students and parents, especially those who aren’t active on social media, but it’s a real problem and its consequences can be devastating to young, developing brains.
This website is marketed in a way that makes you believe its purpose is to promote helpful, constructive advice. But often, it’s anything but constructive. It’s actually promoting and giving a platform to cyberbullies. Just imagine the sorts of things young people would love to anonymously say. Tweens and teens are practically asking for anonymous confessions and criticism--and they are also giving these in return. If you can’t say it face-to-face, then you probably shouldn’t be saying it.
It’s easy to tell children to ignore bullies. To say, “oh, they probably just have something going on at home,” or something of the sort. But, when was the last time someone openly criticized you as an adult for your appearance, intelligence, or your accent? Probably not recently, and definitely not anonymously. It can be permanently damaging to a person’s mental health to experience this type of anonymous untethered criticism. And what we have found is that anonymous criticism often comes in bulk.
So what do you do? Our recommendation is to not allow your children to use anonymous feedback websites. A certain level of freedom is okay; you don’t have to ban your children from their computers or mobile devices so as to keep them from using anonymous feedback sites. However, if you see you should see such a link on their social media, click on it yourself, and ask them why they made a profile on a questionable website.
Criticism is a part of life, and by no means should anyone be shielded from it. However, when someone anonymously says deeply damaging things about you as a person, it can cause lasting damage. Teach your children how to handle conflict maturely. There is no reason to hide behind a computer screen; learning how to confront and resolve conflicts in a mature way is an imperative skill to have for life. We have an upcoming blog on this topic.
In closing, I like the words of the late Eleanor Roosevelt. “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”