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Facebook Debuts New Anti-Bullying Features

A screenshot of one of the new messages geared toward teenage Facebook users who might be experiencing bullying. (Facebook)

A screenshot of one of the new messages geared toward teenage Facebook users who might be experiencing bullying.

Child psychologist Marc Brackett, director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, is working with Facebook to develop what he says is the first emotionally-intelligent bullying prevention system on a social network.

Brackett says that if young teenagers — 13 and 14-year-olds — encounter posts they think are a problem, they will see icons designed specially for them that say “this post is a problem,” and they will be guided through screens that help them sort through their emotions and how best to respond.

What we wanted to do was help kids pause a little bit. Do some problem solving so they can make the best decision possible.

– Marc Brackett

Surprisingly, in testing his program, Brackett found that less than 2 percent of children are seriously bullied online. But many young teenagers don’t have the skills to have effective conversations about difficult topics like bullying.

“Previously, kids would block right away, they’d un-friend right away, they’d jump right into a sort of emotionally charged way of dealing with it,” said Brackett. “What we wanted to do was help kids pause a little bit. Do some problem solving so they can make the best decision possible to either stay in the relationship by sending a message to the person who created the content, or by reaching out to a trusted adult to get the help they need.”

The screens and options are designed to resolve issues on Facebook ranging from teens not liking how they look in a photo to cyberbullying.

The prompts on Facebook offer different advice based on the feelings a teen reports having. If a teenager feels afraid, the advice will be different than if a teenager feels embarrassed.

A screenshot of one of the new messages geared toward teenage Facebook users.

A screenshot of one of the new messages geared toward teenage Facebook users (click to enlarge).

Charlie Sherman is a teenager who was involved in the development of the new Facebook tools, first as a subject in focus groups, and later as a leader of the focus groups.

Sherman said that young people don’t often want to get parents involved, and would rather resolve their own problems.

The focus groups helped determine the level of involvement teenagers want from Facebook.

They also helped craft the language in the prompts, and sometimes responses to the language were immediate, Sherman said.

“You’d see a kid’s face light up, you’d see it click with someone,” he said.

Brackett hopes to expand the Facebook features to 15 and 16-year-olds in the future.

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Connecticut Mirror “Brackett said he was bullied when he was 13. As a middle school student in New Jersey, he said his fingers were slammed in his locker. He hated school and was consumed by a fear of bullying. These unpleasant memories never really went away. They fueled his desire to become an academic devoted preventing bullying and finding ways to make school a better experience for students. When designing the new Facebook system, Brackett and his team met with focus groups to find out how to make Facebook a better environment.”


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