No app is more integral to teens’ social lives than Instagram. While Millennials relied on Facebook to navigate high school and college, connect with friends, and express themselves online, Gen Z’s networks exist almost entirely on Instagram. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, 72 percent of teens use the platform, which now has more than 1 billion monthly users. Instagram allows teens to chat with people they know, meet new people, stay in touch with friends from camp or sports, and bond by sharing photos or having discussions.
But when those friendships go south, the app can become a portal of pain. According to a recent Pew survey, 59 percent of teens have been bullied online, and according to a 2017 survey conducted by Ditch the Label, a nonprofit anti-bullying group, more than one in five 12-to-20-year-olds experience bullying specifically on Instagram. “Instagram is a good place sometimes,” said Riley, a 14-year-old who, like all kids in the story, asked to be referred to by her first name, “but there’s a lot of drama, bullying, and gossip to go along with it.”
Teenagers have always been cruel to each other. But Instagram provides a uniquely powerful set of tools to do it. The velocity and size of the distribution mechanism allows rude comments or harassing images to go viral within hours. Like Twitter, Instagram makes it easy to set up new anonymous profiles, which can be used specifically for trolling. Most importantly, interactions on the app are often hidden from the watchful eyes of parents and teachers, many of whom don’t understand the platform’s intricacies.
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Teens Are Making Instagram Hate Pages About Each Other
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