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Social Media: Pranking and Bullying to the Extreme

By: Jamie Voelker, Behavior Specialist

How many parents have a child who uses social media platforms to connect with their friends? In a world that continually tells us that using social media is a necessity in order to fit in, these platforms are filled with peers and strangers who want to prank and torment your kids. As adults, we know how to ignore or block the people who post rude and hurtful messages designed to cause harm and make us question our worth. Even as a confident and strong woman, I sometimes fall susceptible to cruel comments and second guess my value and skills.

Now imagine, you’re a 9 or 10 year old and you begin to see and receive messages like, “You’re stupid. I don’t know why you even come to school.”

“Wow, you looked fat in that dress today. You should work out and lose some weight.”

“You’re the worst player on your football team. You can’t even catch the ball.”

“Why don’t you just run away and never come back? No one would miss you if you just died.”

Shocked? When I first began to see the impact that these types of messages were having on students in elementary school, I was shocked to. I would contact parents and inform them about the posts and hold mediation meetings a few times a year. As the years have passed and social media has gotten into the hands of younger and younger children, I’m no longer shocked by what I hear about or read. It’s become so common that school counselors, behavior specialists, vice principals, and principals are having these tough conversations on a weekly basis.

Often students are like, “I was just joking. I meant it as a prank.” While the student on the receiving end of these comments is hurt and sometimes scared to attend school. The impact on self esteem is lasting and often never forgotten.