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Cyberbullying and Digital Abuse

Cyberbullying

Technology is a great way to meet new people and to interact with your friends. But unfortunately, people can use the same tool that keeps us connected to bully or harass others.  While bullying isn’t new, with new technological advancements, we run into new issues with old problems.

Cyberbullying is bullying that occurs through technology, like by phones or social media.  A bully could reach a victim through a group text, a messaging app, Snapchat, Instagram, Tik Tok, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or even through online gaming, the possibilities are endless.

Check out this video titled What is Bullying from AMAZE

Types of Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying comes in many different forms.  Below is a list of types of cyberbullying someone may see or experience:

  • Flaming – Online fights, name calling, and similar actions
  • Disparaging – Posts or messages that target someone.  This could include posts that target someone based on their race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
  • Exclusion – Leaving someone out of a game or group chat, or any other social media activity.
  • Outing – Sharing someone’s secrets or private information.
  • Trickery – Tricking someone into telling you something private and then outing them.
  • Impersonation – Pretending to be someone you are not.  Also known as Catfishing.
  • Harassment – Repeatedly sending malicious messages.
  • Cyberstalking – Continuously harassing and disparaging including threats of physical harm.

Important Facts

  • 59 percent of U.S. teens have been bullied or harassed online (Pew Research Center).
  • Name calling is a common form of cyberbullying. Pew Research Center found that 42 percent of teenagers have been called names on the internet or through their cellphone.
  • A third of adolescents said that misinformation had been spread about them online (Pew Research Center).
  • LGBTQ students are at an increased risk of being bullied at school or online

 

Consequences

Cyber Bullying, just like traditional bullying, can have real world consequences for the bully, and the victim.  Some of the consequences of cyberbullying are as follows:

  • Legal Consequences: A person that bullies someone online could suffer legal consequences. This can be a legal gray area in your state.  Some states do not have specific anti-cyberbullying laws, but a perpetrator can still be prosecuted under other existing laws.
  • School Consequences: School policies and procedures may vary on bullying and cyberbullying, but there could still be consequences for these offences, including legal ones.
  • Mental Health: Bullying increases adolescents risk for depression, suicidal ideation, misuse of drugs and alcohol, risky sexual behavior, and it can impact academics as well. For LGBTQ youth, that risk is even higher (Stopbullying.gov).
  • It’s hard to escape: With traditional bullying, a bully was not likely to knock on your door in the middle of the night, but with cyberbullying, a perpetrator can reach out and harass a victim 24/7, plus they have the ability to do this anonymously.
  • Content Posted is hard to get rid of: Hopefully, if you reach out to a media website or app, then they would be able to take down disparaging content, but considering the large scope of social media providers available, this could be a daunting task.  When something is posted online, then it is saved on the server of the website.  You no longer own the content you posted, and neither does a bully that posts content about you.  Large sites or apps are generally better about helping with reports of abuse than smaller ones are, so be cautious about what platforms you are part of.  These can be lengthy, but reading a company’s privacy policies can help you determine if that particular site of interest is right for you.
  • Future consequences: Anything you post online could be found and used against you.  So if you are bullying someone online, this could jeopardize future employment and educational opportunities.  In fact, a Career Builder survey found that 70 percent of employers admit to using social media to help them determine if a candidate is right for the job, 54 percent of employers reported that they decided not to hire a candidate because of their social media profiles, nearly half of employers check current employees profiles, with over a third of employers having sanctioned or fired a worker due to inappropriate content (prnewswire.com). For education, 36 percent of college admission staff searched their applicant’s digital footprints (Kaplan).

 

What you can do if you are being cyberbullied

Life is hard, especially for teenagers.  There is so much to worry about, and bullying can make all of that worse.  You have the right to be safe, respected, and you don’t deserve to be bullied or harassed, whether that be online or in person.  Consider the following information if you are dealing with bullying or cyberbullying:

  • Talk to a trusted adult. This could be a parent, teacher, counselor, coach, or any other trustworthy adult that you know.  These people can help you and help determine if you need to take additional steps.
  • Block, Document, and Report! Many sites have blocking features, and this can help alleviate the frequency of bullying instances. Document instances of bullying and contact the sites’ administrators. Some social media sites have divisions that investigate forms of abuse, including cyberbullying.
  • If you or someone you know is in an immediate risk of danger or harm, then call 911
  • If someone has committed a crime, then contact your local law enforcement
  • If you are at risk for hurting yourself or someone else, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or our crisis line

Additional Resources

  • Visit Stopbullying.gov for more information about bullying, laws, and additional resources for help.
  • Visit AMAZE for more great information on topics related to teenagers.
  • Visit our Social Media, and Sexting page for more information.

Digital Abuse

Technology allows us to stay connected.  Whether you are re-connecting with a lost friend from elementary school, video chatting with a partner that is far away, or making new connections with people that you’ve never met, technology allows us to reach out and touch people in ways that would have been impossible before these advancements.

While technology has done a lot of good in changing the dating landscape, it is important to think about some of the things that could go wrong online, particularly in a relationship.  Identifying potential problems will help you avoid these in the first place, will help you handle a situation if it happens to you, and will make you better equipped to identify signs of digital abuse in the relationships of those that you care about.

Digital Abuse is abuse that occurs through the use of technology such as texting and social media.  This often happens in the context of a dating relationship, but not always.  Unfortunately, digital abuse is fairly common.  1 in 4 teenagers that are in a relationship have experienced digital abuse or harassment (Urban Institute).  Digital abuse is a serious matter that may spill over into other types of abuse.  According to the Urban Institute 96 percent of teens that have experienced digital abuse have also experienced other forms of violence or abuse from their partners.

 

Digitizing Abuse Infographic

Check out this video titled Intimate Partner Violence from AMAZE

Signs of digital abuse

Knowing what digital abuse looks like can help you determine if steps should be taken to set boundaries, end the relationship, or seek further help.  Below are some signs of digital abuse:

  • Your partner sends or posts negative, insulting, or threatening messages directed towards you.
  • Your partner tries to control who you interact with online.
  • Your partner tries to get you to post content that you are uncomfortable with.
  • Your partner sends you unwanted sexual pictures, sends pictures of you without your permission, or insists you send them pictures.
  • Your partner steals or demands to be given your password.
  • Your partner constantly uses social media to keep an eye on what you are doing.

Your digital relationship rights

You have a say in what happens in your relationships online, just like you should have in person:

  • You have the right to control your own content. No one should try to force you into posting what you don’t want to post, to try to change or control what you say online, or to post unwanted content on your behalf
  • You can step away. Your partner should not pressure you into replying within a specific time frame, nor should they get mad if you choose to take a break from social media, or if you choose to delete your accounts all together
  • You have the right to privacy. Your partner should not pressure you into sharing your password with them.
  • You have the right to speak to whoever you want to. Your partner should not try to control who you talk to online, nor should they use this against you
  • You do not have to send any picture or message that you are uncomfortable sending
  • Lastly, you have the right to end any relationship that you are uncomfortable with and at any time.

Consequences

Digital abuse, just like any other form of abuse, can have serious consequences for both the perpetrator and the victim.  If a person is invading your privacy, hurting you, stalking you, harassing you, or doing other similar things, then there could be legal consequences for them.  Like mentioned in the Cyber- Bullying section, anything that is posted online is saved on the server of the website, so this information could be next than impossible to delete or get back, resulting in future consequences for the perpetrator, like lost educational or employment opportunities.  Those who experience teen dating violence are greatly impacted.  They are more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety, to use drugs and alcohol, to exhibit antisocial behaviors, and to think about suicide (CDC).

How to get help

If you are being abused in any capacity, then it’s important to seek help.

  • Talk to an adult. This can be a parent, an older sibling, a teacher, law enforcement, a counselor, a member of a religious institution, or any other adult that you trust and has proven that they are trustworthy.
  • If you are at risk for hurting yourself or someone else, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
  • If you have been hurt or a crime has been committed, then call 911 if it is safe to do so.
  • You can visit loveisrespect.org, call 1-866-331-9474, or text: LOVEIS TO 22522 if you are unable to speak safely.  This is a good resource for information, help, and to connect you with local resources.
Home / Teen / Media

Pornography

Pornography, what is it?

Pornography is any printed or visual material containing explicit descriptions or display of sexual organs and practices.

Problem with porn

It is NOT realistic! – Pornography is a production or a show, it’s meant to draw you in. The people who are participating in pornography are typically paid actors or actresses.

– A majority of the people in the pornography industry have either had enhancements done to their bodies or have been photo shopped in some way.  Watching porn can lead to a person having a poor body image.  We think what we see is real and wonder why we don’t fit that image.

 

Unhealthy relationships– In Heterosexual pornography, women are often portrayed as subservient to men and are often used as objects for male satisfaction. To make matters worse these are often non-consenting roles.  This can lead someone to believe that this is how relationships should be. In reality a healthy relationship is when both partners are equal and where both of their opinions should be taken into account. Consent plays a huge role in real life relationships and it is not always represented in this industry.  Pornography is also all about sex.  It doesn’t show the other aspects needed in a healthy relationship such as trust, respect and true intimacy.

Sexual curiosity: Good or BAD?

So why do people watch pornography? Usually it begins as a person being curious.  We are naturally curious individuals and it is perfectly normal to be curious about sex. We hear about it from so many different sources on a regular bases. It is no wonder why someone would want to know more about it. It has been reported that 60% of teens have gone to porn to learn more about sex. https://www.healthyteennetwork.org/blog/porn-literacy  The problem is pornography portrays fantasy scenarios that are far from accurate.  This can leave a person with unrealistic expectations of what sex is really like.   So how do we learn about sex in a healthy way? Talk to a trusted adult about the questions you have.  Find a book or an online resource; such as centerstone\teen.org or sexetc.org,   to look up what you need to know. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. That is how we learn.

Pornography Info graphic

Home / Teen / Media

Sexting

What is sexting?

  • Sexting is when people share sexual message or pictures using electronic devices like cell phones, emails and social networking sites.

What should I do if I need help?

If someone is trying to pressure you to send a sext message. You need to tell someone.  Preferably a trusted adult, they will be able to get you in contact with the right people to handle the situation.

Remember! NO ONE has the right to pressure you to do something you are not comfortable with. When it comes to your body, you are the one who is in charge. Never let anyone make you feel like you have to put yourself on display to prove how you feel about them. If they really care they will respect you and your decisions. Check out more info in Consent.

How does sexting affect me?

Sexting can seem like no big deal right?  In a world where young people ages 15 to 24, have the highest rate of STI’s in the country, sending a sexual image via electronics seems to be the safest way to express your sexual feelings. No physical contact = no chance of catching an STI or getting pregnant, so it should be a win win.  Unfortunately, it is not that simple. Sexting can have some pretty harsh consequences too.

Before hitting send, remember that you cannot control where this image may travel. What you send to a partner could end up with their friends, online or in the hands of a sexual predator. Once that picture is out there, there is no getting it back. Even the social media apps that “delete” the image after so many seconds have servers that store everything posted on their site. Don’t forget people can take screenshots as well and save your picture without your knowledge.

Emotional consequences

  • Objectification/possible victimization
  • Loss of friends, bullying
  • Feeling sad, depressed, withdrawn
  • Thinking about or actually hurting self/others
  • Regret, loss of respect for oneself

Emotional consequences are rarely thought of in the moment. But what happens after you break up? Is it possible that the relationship doesn’t end well and they send your pics out to “get back at you”?  What about if they sent the images to everyone on their social media and your teachers or parents found out? We need to keep all of this in mind before we send any explicit picture.

Future consequences

  • Employment
  • College admission
  • Joining the military
  • Re-living the emotional consequences when old photos/sext messages re-surface
  • Future relationships can also be hindered by this.

Employers are looking for good, professional candidates to fill the positions in their company. Many businesses will search a person’s social media to get a feel for what kind of person you are and if you are what they want.  If you have nude images or pics of alcohol and drug use, you are not going to be very high on their list to hire.

Some colleges will also google you to make sure you are a good fit for their school.

What will come up if someone searches your name?

Legal consequences YES WE SAID LEGAL!!!

If anyone involved is under the age of 18, this is officially considered child pornography. Legal consequences can vary depending on where you live. In some states it can be as much as a felony per picture for both the sender and receiver (even if you didn’t ask for the picture).  Checkout your states laws around sexting here: https://cyberbullying.org/sexting-laws

  • Federal prosecution under child pornography laws (that includes the picture taker, person in the picture, sender, receiver and anyone who is in possession or has seen the photo)
  • Risk of placement on Sex Offender Registry
  • Possible jail time
  • In most cases the penalty will be worse for the individuals who share or request the photo. This is considered enticing a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct.

Things to consider before pushing send ….

Think about the consequences of taking, sending or sharing a sexual picture of yourself or someone else underage. You could get kicked off of sports teams, lose educational opportunities and even go to jail.

Never take images of yourself that you wouldn’t want everyone – your classmates, teachers and family – to see.

Never forward someone else’s sex-related messages. It’s not funny, and it could land you in serious trouble.

Remember schools can punish students for sexting even if the students are not breaking the law and if all students involved are legal adults. If sexting leads to anything that disrupts school day such as bullying or bad behavior the schools can and probably will get involved. https://ncac.org/project/youth-free-expression-program/sexting-know-your-rights

Report any unwanted sexual messages you receive to a trusted adult; this could be a parent, teacher, coach or any adult you trust with sensitive information.

Resources

Home / Teen / Media

Social Media

What is Social Media?

Social media are forms of electronic communication (such as websites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content, such as videos.

It is estimated that 95% of teens have mobile devices and spend 7-9 hours a day on social media with 93% using the internet and 60% post photographs with 75% viewing or sharing. 97% play games and 2/3rd have encountered hate speech or bullying (geekwire)  (social media today) (pewresearch).

Check out this video from common sense:

To give you an idea of the scope and number of people on the internet,  here are some of the most popular social media sites and approximate number of users worldwide:

Tik Tok1 billion
Snapchat210 million
Facebook2.27 billion
Twitter336 million
YouTube1.9 billion
Instagram1 billion
Tumblr642 million

  • As of January 5, 2020, there were 4+ billion internet users spanning the globe (websitehostingrating)
  • 56% of all internet traffic is from an automated source such as hacking tools, scrapers and spammers, impersonators, and bots. (websitehostingrating)
  • It is estimated that there are around 77 billion social media users around the globe (websitehostingrating).
  • Snapchat usage is highest amongst the Gen Z population (53% regularly use it). (Statista)

Wow! That’s a lot of people!

 
For additional information on internet usage check out these sites: (hostingfacts).  (Internetworldstats).
 
What should I do if I need help?
First, if you are in immediate need, talk to a trusted adult like a parent, guardian, teacher or counselor. You can also contact the web site to report the problem. If more serious issues arise, you feel unsafe or in danger contact local law enforcement. Remember that once someone has your information it is very difficult and most often impossible to retrieve or stop inappropriate use by others.
What are some dangers of social media?
Using Social Media can be fun. You can connect with family and friends, share experiences, pictures and events, keep up on the latest news and post your own news!
You have to be careful though, there are dangers too. You have to use caution when things like body image, sexting and other issues of social media come up that could create obstacles and consequences you may not have thought about.

Check out this video from amaze:

Read on to learn about more dangers of social media, and strategies to stay safe!

  • Be aware that once you hit send, the text or image is no longer private or in your control. Once posted on social media sites there is no way to retrieve or delete your image or message should someone choose to share what you have posted. You might be very surprised of stories of ordinary people who have had their online images and messages “stolen” and used for purposes they didn’t intend.
  • Never add strangers, people you don’t know, to your friend list. Not everyone online is honest. Things like catfishing, impersonation and even voyeurs constantly troll social media sites looking for vulnerable users to exploit. Make sure you know who you’re really sharing your information with!
  • Never share personal information like your address, phone number or social security number
  • Terms and conditions of social sites allow them to legally have access to whatever you post and to access your location. It is easy for anyone, especially hackers, to access when something is posted online.
  • Be aware that personal information can be used in negative ways.
  • If you’re bullied online, tell someone.
  • Emotional consequences-embarrassment, humiliation, possible victimization, loss of friends, bullying, depression and self-harm can occur.

For more tips on internet safety visit: (puresight).
Future consequences- Be mindful of what you post online, because it could come back to haunt you:

  • A Career Builder survey found that 70 percent of employers admit to using social media to help them determine if a candidate is right for the job (prnewswire).
  • 54 percent of employers reported that they decided not to hire a candidate because of their social media profiles (prnewswire).
  • Nearly half of employers check current employees’ profiles, with over a third of employers having sanctioned or fired a worker due to inappropriate content (prnewswire).
  • For education, 36 percent of college admission staff searched their applicant’s digital footprints (Kaplan).

Catfishing- Catfishing is a form of cyberbullying. It is when someone creates a fake profile on social media and pretends to be someone else. Remember, not every one of those billions of people who are on social media with you are honest and you might not really know who you are interacting with.  Catfishers use materials that are often already available on media sites, they can manipulate images, use a person’s name, pictures and other information to create a fake online personality. Catfishers may bully, demean, embarrass, humiliate, blackmail or harass. If you feel you are the victim of online bullying talk with a trusted adult.

Ok then, now you know how wide spread social media is, consequences that could affect your life, present and future, and how to keep safe while online.

Now you can share, tweet, connect and have fun while protecting yourself and those you care about!

Links/resources for teens:

 
Additional resources:
Visit our Sexting and Cyberbullying sections to learn more.

Home / Teen / Media

What does “body image” mean?

Why don’t I like the way I look?

Check out this video from AMAZE

What does “body image” mean?

  • We hear the word “body image” EVERYWHERE. In the media, our schools, amongst friends, it’s a term that surrounds us… but what does it really mean? Body image is how we see ourselves when we look in the mirror. This can influence how we feel, think, and act. These feelings can be positive or negative, and can be influenced by social media.

 

Positive body image!

  • Have mixed-emotions with your body image? Don’t worry! You’re not alone. Having a positive body image may look different for everyone, because we are all unique. A positive body image is accepting and respecting our bodies for what they are. A positive body image is not the absence of insecurities, we all have insecurities! Viewing our bodies in a positive way includes self-acceptance of our strengths and even limitations.

 

How does the media impact my body image?

Check out this video from AMAZE

  • Whether we’re watching Netflix, scrolling through social media, or even seeing an advertisement for our favorite store, we are constantly flooded with images. These images that we see in the media can be fun to look at, but it can largely affect how we see ourselves. Have you ever scrolled through your favorite influencer’s feed and wondered how they take such perfect pictures? Most pictures that we see are filtered, photo shopped, and curated to appear “perfect”. While it might seem harmless, it presents unrealistic beauty standards and can lead to self-comparison. This can influence how we perceive our own bodies, and even leave us with unrealistic expectations of how we “should” look.
  • Stereotypes: Sometimes the media portrays conflicting and negative messages about minority groups. This can be difficult to maintain a positive body image when the media is flooded with stereotypes and misrepresentation of our diverse world. There are various stereotypes in our media outlets that we should be cautious about. Some of those stereotypes include:
    • Gender Stereotypes, Racial Stereotypes, Sexuality Stereotypes, and Ability Stereotypes.

Affirmations:

Song lyrics to remind you that you are perfect the way you are!

  • “Hey (hey)
    I am not my hair
    I am not this skin
    I am not your expectations, no (hey)
    I am not my hair
    I am not this skin
    I am the soul that lives within” – India Arie
  • “I was born this way
    Don’t hide yourself in regret
    Just love yourself and you’re set” – Lady Gaga
  • “When I look in the mirror and the only one there is me
    Every freckle on my face is where it’s suppose to be” – India Arie
  • “I got my tough, tough power
    And I call this body my home, my home” – BAUM
  • “You don’t know what it is to be me, and I don’t know what it is to be you. That is because we are made different from each other, but all girls are meant to shine. All girls are meant to be something special in this world, even if they’re told they’re not supposed to be…They might paint a pretty picture of your likeness but you are just as deserving. In fact, you deserve even more.” – Princess Nokia
  • “I thank God every day (uh huh)

That I woke up feelin’ this way (uh huh)

And I can’t help lovin’ myself” – Meghan Trainor

 

Need help?

Additional Resources