Cyber-bullying may be one the hottest topics facing teenagers and even their parents. Recent studies from Pew Research indicate as many at 1 in 3 teenagers who spend time online have already experienced some form of online harassment. The report found that 32% of all online teens have been the targets of persistent online bullying such as threatening messages, unauthorized postings of pictures and the spread of rumors through online connection.
With such research as the backdrop, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar sponsored a forum at Augsburg College in Minneapolis to address questions about cyber-bullying and help her form some direction in possible legislation.
Among the panelists were Lynn Miland, a parent whose 15 year old daughter was bullied by fellow students. Also present was U of M professor Shayla Thiel-Stern who has studied cyber-bullying, and Nicky Jackson-Coloco, a public policy manager with Facebook.
It is exceptionally rare to have one-on-one access to a Facebook representative. Mrs. Jackson-Coloco’s advise to parents of teenagers I believe is so important that I’ve put together a series of questions and answers from my interview that couldn’t meet the time restrictions of television news.
Nicky Jackson-Coloco, Facebook Public Policy Manager
Q: What should parents be talking to their Kids about in using Facebook?
A: “I think a lot of the messages we give our kids about how they operate in the offline world applies to the online world. Things like don’t talk to strangers, and on Facebook you shouldn’t be afraid to not accept friend requests from people you don’t know.”
Q: How do you report bullying on Facebook?
A: “A lot of times we tell our kids if there’s a problem report it to an adult, tell somebody. And on Facebook that means use our reporting infrastructure. We have report buttons all over the site and when a report is filed it’s confidential and Facebook looks at it and takes immediate action or as quickly as possible.”
Q: Tell your kids they don’t have to friend everyone on Facebook.
A: “I really believe that in the same way you wouldn’t ask a stranger to come into your house, or your child shouldn’t get into a car with somebody he or she didn’t know, you shouldn’t accept friend requests from people you don’t now on Facebook. You know I think there are times when you accept requests from friends of friends or maybe you talk to someone because they are going to a university that you want to go to and you want to connect with them, that’s one thing. But people that you don’t know you should never accept a friend request.”
Q: How should parents talk to their kids about passwords?
A: “You should never share your password with anyone on Facebook or otherwise with anybody. Even if it’s your best friend because that gives people access to your account and your information and access to present yourself in ways that you wouldn’t want.”
Q: What’s appropriate age for child to have a Facebook page?
A: “Any teenager has to 13 years old to use the site and I think a lot of parents don’t know of that rule that you have to be 13. But I think there’s no specific age. I think it depends upon the parent and the family, and some families have media policies where here’s how much television you can watch, here’s how much time you can spend online and here’s how we feel about you using social networks. And for some people that may be 13 and for some people that may be 15, and for some people that could be even later. But I think the key is to have conversations about social media with your kids even before they get on Facebook. And its not just about Facebook, it’s about whenever you’re on line how do you want to portray yourself.
The information that you post online about yourself and the way that you portray yourself can be seen by lots of different people and sometimes in ways that you don’t realize. So, it’s how you conduct yourself online and that’s a conversation that you can have far earlier than 13. But I really think the appropriate age for teens to be on Facebook is when the teen and the parent decide it’s the right time.”
Q: As a parent, should you friend your teenage children on Facebook?
A: “I think there are probably relationships where there are no trust issues and people feel comfortable not being friends on Facebook. But I certainly think it’s reasonable to say, ‘Hey, in the same way that I want to know the friends that are coming over to our house and who you’re going out with on a Friday night, I’d really like to understand who you’re in touch with online. It’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s because I love you and I’m concerned about your safety. And say, ‘Listen when you turn 18 I don’t need to be your friend anymore.’”
Q: If you’re being bullied on Facebook, how do you report it?
A: “So on Facebook there are report buttons on almost every page of the site. So if somebody is doing something that is in appropriate or violates our policy they click a report button and there’s a little flow that tells them how the report can be filed. It’s very, very simple, it takes just a few seconds, and it’s really important that teens know that reports are confidential. We take a look at those reports and we take the most egregious ones and look at those first. And then we triage and look at the other things we need to look at.”
Q: How can you block someone from bullying you on Facebook?
A: “So, if a teen is being bullied on Facebook, we have a feature. They can hit the block button and it will cut off all communication with that person and you wont be able to contact them at all on Facebook. And I actually think this is a great feature because in the real world, there’s sort of no stop feature, where it prevents that person from having any contact with you, and we do have that on Facebook.”