Delivered on social media; cyberbullying in the era of being “left on read”

“Left on read” means your message was seen and read, but the person opts to ignore the sender; a passive form of bullying
The Early evening news on KOTA Territory TV
Published: Nov. 3, 2022 at 11:13 AM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Many teens have cell phones and says it is the most common source of cyberbullying. The focus for years has been on prevention and facts in high schools, but now more middle school students have cell phones. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared the first Thursday of November, International Day Against Violence and Bullying at School, Including Cyberbullying.

School counselor, Jessica Dial says cyberbullying is affecting students even in the sixth grade. A student at East Middle School in Rapid City says Instagram pages like “hot or not” or “shipped” are common at the school. The communication students have over social media is generally the root of the pressure felt by students says Dial. First some lingo: Snapchat is a social media app used to send pictures or text messages. Snap is the term used for sending these messages back and forth, and streaks are messages sent back and forth constantly.

“People will base their friendships on like their streaks, or if they snap back and forth or not. Which is like a big thing actually. Like following or whatever, like ‘oh yeah do you know this girl?’, ‘oh year we’re cool like we snap back and forth’, or ‘like year she follows me on Tiktok’,” said Aurora an eighth grader at Rapid City East Middle School.

Aurora says on Snapchat sometimes students will have group chats with other students to talk badly about a person.

At East Middle School, students can report cyberbullying and bullying anonymously, to help ease the pressure of being considered a tattle tale. A counselor at the middle school says many of the situations she sees are a lack of non-verbal communication that is missed when talking over social media.

“It comes with a lot of pressure when you talk about like Aurora had mentioned the popularity. And like popularity is defined as the number of followers you have and how many times you open somebody or don’t open somebody, that that’s a reflection of that relationship without communication,” explains Dial. “I think that can come with just a ton of pressure for students.”

Dial says although she sees a lot of the negative impacts of social media, due to her job, certain trends uplift other students. Like “gassing up”, a trend when students pick one student to uplift and give lots of positive reinforcement.

Rapid City Area Schools is hosting a talk on digital safety with Hollie Strand Thursday, from 5:30 pm to 7 p.m. at the Rapid City High School.