Cyberbullying is something all social media users struggle to cope with, but for teens and tweens, it’s a whole different ballgame. The long-term, damaging effects it can have on school-aged kids is well-documented, and the stats are, quite frankly, alarming. In fact, according to a recent study, young victims of cyberbullying are twice as likely to harm themselves or demonstrate suicidal thoughts or behavior; and yet its prevalence continues, mostly because social media platforms have struggled with how to fully police themselves.
Until now, that is.
In a blog post published this week, Instagram announced that it’s beginning to use “machine learning technology” (AKA artificial intelligence) to detect bullying in both photos and captions, which will then be sent to Instagram’s Community Operations team for human review. The social media platform is also encouraging users to report any instances of cyberbullying they see themselves.
The move comes under the leadership of Instagram’s new head, Adam Mosseri, who penned the blog.
“Online bullying is complex,” he wrote, “and we know we have more work to do to further limit bullying and spread kindness on Instagram … As the new Head of Instagram, I’m proud to build on our commitment to making Instagram a kind and safe community for everyone.”
Under Mosseri, users can hopefully expect to see a decrease in online bullying, which will make for a more inclusive place for everyone.
In addition to the platform’s new detection tools, Instagram has also launched a new camera filter in Stories, with reality star and influencer Maddie Zeigler kicking off the first post. Users can snap a photo or video for their Stories and tag a friend to “help spread kindness” and continue the chain. Because “while stopping bullies is important,” Mosseri writes, “we must also do more to celebrate and inspire kindness on Instagram.”
This isn’t the first time Instagram has made efforts to combat bullying on the app, though these latest ones do coincide with Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. Earlier this year, it launched a bullying comment filter to both detect and hide bullying comments from the Feed, Explore, and Profile sections. But starting this week, the bullying comment filter will also apply to Live videos on Instagram, which have become increasingly popular.
As the parent of an (almost) 9-year-old, I can’t applaud this enough. All of my daughter’s friends who have their own phones are already allowed to get Instagram, often before any other social media app. In fact, most parents I know seem to view Instagram, as well as Snapchat, as being generally “safer” apps for kids to use. But as we all know, that certainly hasn’t meant the space is immune to bullying, which can happen anywhere kids (or adults) are connecting online.
The efforts Instagram is making to create a safer and more friendly environment for both kids and adults is certainly a step in the right direction, so let’s hope other social media platforms follow their lead — and soon. After all, part of creating a kinder world starts with creating a kinder Internet, since we’ve all seen how easy it is for folks to lose their filter when they’re hiding behind a screen.