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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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  • Kcking6

    I think, at its core, it’s a fine idea. But what about teaching our children to face adversity and do something that is challenging, i.e. facing fear and overcoming it

    • Erin

       I think that offering the option for the child to send a message directly to the person who is bothering them is teaching that standing up for the self, facing that fear and overcoming it, is important.

      Sometimes, though, bullying is beyond the control of the child.  Most kids are not only bullied online, but also at school, at home, or in other social situations as well.  Sometimes, too, there is more at play then the bullying.  (Kids are often targeted because they stand out.  Maybe they are depressed, or are LGBT, or are in some other way perceived as separate from their peers.   That can make them feel like they deserve the treatment, and can make them feel isolated to the point of being unable to stand up for themselves.)

      Another factor is believing the bullies.  If a child hears people that they are an idiot, or that they should have never been born, or whatever the bullying phrases of choice are, eventually they may start to believe the bullies.  After a couple of years the child may begin to think that the bullies must see some deficiency that is invisible to the self.  Trying to stand up for yourself when you believe the bullying is hard, and sometimes it doesn’t work.  Imagine being bullied after trying to stop the bullying.  How helpless that must feel, especially for kids to whom time seems to practically stand still.

      I would like to see facebook come up with similar prompts for when cruel things are being posted.  You click “post” and prompts start, saying that the words in this post sound hurtful – Do you mean them?  Why are you writing them?  How well do you know this person?  etc.

      I think having responses on both side, causing both the bullies and the bullied to think before they act, would be great.  :-)

      • Erin

         Okay, allow me to expand on my comments please.  (If you don’t mind.  I just re-read my post and realized that this one bit probably sounds weird.)

        When I wrote, “especially for kids to whom time seems to practically stand still,” I was referring to how summer seems to last forever when young, and waiting for a friend to come over for 15 minutes feels like it takes an hour.  So thinking, as a freshman, about how you won’t be bullied anymore at the end of high school seems like an impossibly long time to live through being told you’re worthless.

        Also: I meant to put the word “say” between “people” and “that” in the second sentence of the third paragraph.  Sorry.

        Thanks!

  • SubmitTheDocumentary

    “It’s Not Physical It’s Personal” Cyberbullying PSA goes viral created by HS Students https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyAtYa6qMWM

  • Finnpunk

    certainly can’t have young consumers dropping off of Facebook.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1499382702 CeAnne Becker

      This has NOTHING to do with consumers dropping off of Facebook! It has EVERYTHING to do with the safety of children…too many times it even means the difference between life and death!

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    I thought 13 year old kids were not supposed to be on facebook

    • http://www.indraemc.blogspot.com/ Indra Emc

      especially “Call of duty” player :D

  • Ritagonzalez3

    I am glad that this debut happens that way bullies get the message that a lot more is being done to make it known how un accepted it is finally becoming . I have 2 children that are or have been bullied and no matter what I do it keeps reoccurring at school I am soo tired of it I want it to STOP.

  • http://rogeriocaroco.wix.com/worldsmusic Rogério Paulo Valentim Caroço

    It’s a real good idea. Every year dies to many lives

  • Fernando Gregoire

    The idea sounds interesting. I’d like to see these prompts working in Spanish

  • Brandon Taylor

    Now let’s see if Twitter will employ something similar in the near future.

  • Joseph Singer

    I’d honestly love to see these options available to all users; adults can suffer form bullying and discrimination as well.

  • liam_burrows

    ‘…sending a message to the person who created the content’

    Is the last thing you should do. The trolls then know that they have you rattled, and they will do even more to upset you. Don’t do it, people.

    And any expectation you have that Facebook will help you is a waste of a hope.

    Facebook won’t do anything if you click on ‘I don’t like what the post says’ – after all, this is a company which prides itself on ‘allowing offensive content’. And some content is very offensive.

    Facebook seems to think that anything is allowed, even child exploitation pages. They won’t do anything if you click ‘it shouldn’t be allowed on Facebook’. They just don’t care what you think should be allowed.

    In fact, the only thing they seem to care about is spam. And that’s because spam is an advert they didn’t get paid for.

    I’m not at all impressed.

  • justme

    reporting as any one of those options does nothing

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