Warning over 'spilling the tea' Instagram accounts that cyberbully schoolkids by spreading false rumors
MIDDLE schoolers are being cyberbullied across the country as more "Gossip Girl"-style Instagram accounts continue to pop up.
The Instagram accounts, which are being created by other students, are acting as a tell-all for who's dating, who's bringing drugs to school, and what someone's sexual orientation might be.
This latest form of cyberbullying, which reminds many of the popular teen drama, "Gossip Girl," is resulting in mental health implications, physical altercations, and self-harm.
The digital gossip mills are not just pitting students against students, but also parents against school administrators as they plead with them to shut down the accounts.
"I don’t know what kind of government authority they think we have, but we don’t have the ability to shut down Instagram accounts," said Benjamin Horsley, a spokesman for the Granite School District in Salt Lake City.
Even though social media apps have been proactive in deleting the accounts, students just keep making more, leaving school administrators overwhelmed.
The accounts, whose handles tend to include a school’s name and the word "tea," have especially grown in popularity this year, following students' return to school buildings after a year of remote learning.
"Kids were so suppressed in their ability to get together with other kids before this school year began," Rich Wistocki, a former police officer who consults with schools on cyber safety, told The Wall Street Journal.
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"Now that they’re back in school together, they want to establish their place as the popular person, the leader, and they’re doing it with a vengeance," the retired cop added.
And these social media accounts are not just perpetuating cyberbullying, but also school vandalism, and fights in the form of "online challenges."
The contention between parents and school admin has raised questions over who is responsible for students' online lives, with experts saying ultimately, it's the parents.
However, many experts and government officials have said that social media apps are also responsible for the safety of their young users.
"Your platforms are my biggest fear as a parent," Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., told the CEOs of Facebook, Google, and Twitter at a congressional hearing in March.
"It's a battle for their development, a battle for their mental health, and ultimately a battle for their safety," she said, citing research that links social media to depression among young teens.
Instagram has responded by saying that bullying isn’t tolerated on the app and that they've "developed industry-leading tools to stop this behavior and help people protect themselves."
"This behavior can be common with teens including on apps like Snapchat and TikTok, which is why we’ve called for a new industry body to create standards for age-appropriate experiences, age verification, and parental controls," the social media giant added.
In other news, Samsung is reportedly killing off its beloved Note smartphone after more than a decade.
Apple has announced that it will let customers fix their own iPhones for the first time starting next year.
The UK is fighting an epidemic of hack attacks targeting consumers and businesses, according to officials.
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