“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” Eleanor Roosevelt
Have you ever stumbled across websites/apps that allow you to leave anonymous messages and feedback for other people? If you haven’t, that’s probably for the best. If you are a middle school student or older, 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, be on the lookout for links to these websites/apps 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/app - 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/friends have immediate access to say anything they would like to you anonymously.
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. And most of the time, there is nothing you can do to find out who they are and why they have chosen to target you.
Cyberbullying may sound like a joke to the older generation of 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.
These sites/apps are 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 expanding and giving a platform to bullies. Just imagine the sorts of things young people would love to say anonymously.
Tweens and teens are practically asking for anonymous confessions and criticism--and they are also giving these in return. It may seem funny at first, but a barrage of insults and criticism quickly becomes anything but fun.
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. "Oh, it'll just go away." "Kids will be kids."
My advice is never to ignore a bully. Immediately and aggressively handle the situation before it gets out of hand by telling a parent, guardian, administrator, teacher, or counselor.
If you are a parent and your child is being bullied, immediately request a meeting with the appropriate people to deal with the situation. We have all heard way too many horror stories of what happens when bullying is not stopped.
But, seriously, when is the last time someone openly criticized you as an adult for your appearance, intelligence, clothing, or your accent? Probably not recently, and not anonymously.
It can be permanently damaging to a person’s mental health to experience this type of anonymous untethered criticism or any type of bullying. And what we have found is that anonymous criticism often comes in bulk.
So what do you do? I previously mentioned a few solutions, but our recommendation is not to allow your children to use these websites/apps.
A certain level of freedom is okay; you don’t have to ban your children from their computers or mobile devices to keep them from using anonymous feedback sites. However, if you 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 disputes maturely is a crucial skill to have for life.