Tweens and teens used to be able to leave their bullies behind in the school hallways at the end of the day; but now, with the prevalence of social media and smartphones, they carry their bullies with them wherever they go.
Social media and cyberbullying go hand-in-hand, which is leading to increased depression and anxiety among teens. And they may feel trapped by their bullies, even on a screen. Blocking an unwanted user is certainly an option, but as Fast Company points out, blocking the bully on social media could actually backfire and make things worse:
Obviously when a users blocks a person from their social media account, that person knows it, and the action the user took to protect themselves online could just lead to more bullying retaliation, for example, in the halls of the user’s school if they and the bully go to the same high school.
Simply ignoring them, though, can feel impossible when they are constantly popping up in the comments of your posts for all to see or rapid-fire messaging you. So Instagram has come up with a new anti-bullying tactic that it launched this week: the “Restrict” option. When the jerk chimes in with a “you’re such a loser,” you can swipe left on the comment, tap the exclamation point symbol and then “Restrict.” (You can also restrict a user through the Privacy tab in Settings or directly from the profile of the user’s account.)
Once a user is restricted, their comments will be visible only to them. You’ll be able to see that they’ve made a new comment, but you’ll have to tap “See Comment” for it to actually appear, which makes the whole ignoring thing a lot easier. You can also approve it so it’s visible to everyone or delete it. (Of course, to be able to do any of this, you’ll need to first update your app.)
Direct messages from the restricted account will now go to “Message Request,” and you can read them but they won’t be able to see when/if you did. You can also un-restrict them at any time.
It certainly won’t eradicate cyberbullying completely, but it’s one more tool for kids and parents to use to feel empowered to protect their accounts and tune out some of the hate.