Studies reveal that cyberbullying is thriving on Meta sites, with children moving to TikTok

A pair of high-profile social media studies released Wednesday find that cyberbullying complaints are highest on Meta’s Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram platforms, as teens increasingly switch to TikTok.

In a global survey of 11,687 parents and their children in 10 countries, IT security firm McAfee found that Facebook topped all complaint platforms, with 65% of Americans witnessing bullying – including bullying. racism and threats of physical violence – and 67% experience it.

The California-based firm said cyberbullying occurs more than twice as often on Facebook as on Twitter and four times more on WhatsApp, the most popular messaging app among children, than on rival Discord.

And nearly 80% of families reported cyberbullying on Instagram, compared to 50% on TikTok and Snapchat.

“Most social media sites require children to be 13 or older to use these sites, but the majority of parents are those who register their children under 13 on these accounts,” said Ross Ellis, founder of the advocacy group STOMP. Out Bullying, said in a commentary on the study. “Children under 13 are not mature enough to handle the online hate, physical danger and predatory events that happen online.”

The Pew Research Center reported in a separate survey of 1,316 American teenagers that TikTok has become the second favorite social media platform for older children.

Among 13-17 year olds, 67% say they have used the video-sharing site and 16% say they use it “almost constantly”, just behind the 95% who say they use YouTube.

Pew found that the share of teens using Facebook fell to 32% this year, from 71% in its 2014-2015 survey. 62% say they use Instagram and 59% use Snapchat.

“Although Facebook is losing its dominance in the social media world with this new cohort of teenagers, a higher share of those living in low- and middle-income households gravitate towards Facebook than their peers who live in more affluent households. “, reported Pew.

Mitch Prinstein, scientific director of the American Psychological Association, said research confirms that social media use is “depersonalizing” emerging generations as they come to see themselves “as profiles with shared viewpoints. or contradictory rather than as fully realized humans”.

“This depersonalization leads to more frequent and severe online harassment, victimization and discrimination, which further distances us from empathy and connection,” Prinstein said in an email.

“More science is needed, but emerging findings suggest there is a need for more adult supervision, monitoring and conversation around digital media interactions that are driven by a desire for profit rather than wellness goals,” he added.

Meta did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the McAfee study. TikTok also did not respond.

Wednesday’s studies follow recent research showing a spike in online bullying as more children went online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A June 27 study published in JAMA Network Open found that young people aged 10 to 13 were more likely to attempt suicide after being bullied online than at school. He found that the anonymity of online interactions made bullies oblivious to their impact on victims.

Pam Benigno, director of the Education Policy Center at the Free Market Independence Institute in Denver, said a lot of bullying happens in school projects that ask kids to create social media videos.

“If the school cannot provide a social media policy, parents should ask the school board to adopt a social media policy that respects the child’s right to privacy,” Benigno said. .

Clinical psychologist Thomas Plante, a professor at Santa Clara University, predicts that cyberbullying will get worse as long as parents continue to give children 24/7 access to smart devices.

“Frankly, I think social media has done more harm than good and now that the cat is out of the bag, it’s really hard to manage and control the influence on our lives,” Plante said on Wednesday. . “I think parents and kids should ideally be in an ongoing conversation about what to do or what not to do with it, regardless of the platform.”

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly reported who witnessed bullying in the McAfee study.