In late October of this year Twitter introduced a new way for its 500 million users to interact with one another by launching Twitter Polls. While Twitter has always offered ways for users to gather information and opinions through hashtags or simply having users cast their vote through either retweet or favorites, this new polling option offers an easier alternative. While the poll questions and tallies are public information, who voted and how is kept anonymous.
Unfortunately, teens across the world have twisted this new option into a new form of cyberbullying.
Since being launched, reports of cyberbullying through Twitter polls have surfaced in middle and high schools in Utah, Montana, and Michigan.
How the Polls Work
The Twitter polling system is rather simple in nature. Users ask a question and can add up to four options as an answer. Once the poll has been broadcast the ability to respond remains active for 24 hours before polling is closed.
How Students Are Using It
In some cases, students have stated that the polls being posted were just jokes but soon they took a turn for the worse. Some polls being posted included: “Who is the Ugliest Girl In School”, “Who is Dumber: John or a Brick”, “Who is the Biggest Slut?” While the polling closes after 24 hours, the results remain on the account.
Is This Cyberbullying?
Absolutely! Bullying is defined by actions that are deliberate, repeated, and hostile behaviors intended to harm another. Cyberbullying has been defined by The National Crime Prevention Council: “When the Internet, cell phones or other devices are used to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person.” These polls have added an entirely new level to this.
Who Is Responsible: Parents or School?
I’ve spent the last hour pouring over all of the articles regarding this subject and there seems to be a common theme- no one wants to take responsibility over the issue. One school principal currently dealing with this issue had this to say in one story, ” the school has no connection to or control over the polls. That hasn’t stopped parents calling the school with concerns about what is being posted. He said he hopes Twitter can shut the accounts down before one of the polls leads to tragedy.”
I bring this up because it seems to be a common theme when it comes to social media, bullying and the law.
It’s important to first remember that each state has a different law when it comes to bullying both online and off. To learn more about your state’s law, I encourage you to visit bullypolice.org for a breakdown.
From there I want to remind both educators and parents that when it comes to raising our kids it takes a village. It’s corny. It’s overused. It’s true.
It’s important that communities work together to educate and prevent these issues from coming up in the first place.
Rather than turn myself into a broken record, I’m going to point you to an entry that I wrote last year regarding internet safety: Teaching Internet Safety: It Takes A Village. While a bulk of this entry talks about internet safety, I think the lesson can be applied to situations surrounding bulling. From there I’ll also recommend another entry for parents: Fight The Bully: What Parents Can Do.
Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com
You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.