Seniors envy young people

10 years Instagram: Developmental Psychologist: "Social media play with young people"

Ten years of Instagram - the anniversary of the social network with over a billion worldwide users last Tuesday is thought-provoking. On October 5th, the day before, the World Girls Report of the Children's Fund Plan International was published on the occasion of World Girls' Day 2020. The results of "Free to be online - Girls 'and young women' s experiences with digital violence" are frightening: 70 percent of the respondents from Germany have experienced digital violence and harassment on social media, worldwide it is a good one in two (58 percent). According to the World Girls Report, Instagram is the platform with the most attacks on young women and girls in Germany, followed by Facebook.

The report is based on a non-representative survey of 14,000 girls and young women from 22 countries. Plan International's concern: Giving girls a voice and letting them have their say. Among the 15 to 25-year-olds who were asked for this and who voluntarily filled out the questionnaire with given answer options, there are around 1,000 girls and young women from Germany. Half of all girls surveyed say that they are more likely to experience harassment on social media than on the street.

Abuses in social media: developmental psychologists see platforms as an obligation

The developmental psychologist Herbert Scheithauer from the Free University of Berlin is not surprised: "In any case, the Internet is very disinhibiting. You can comment on the Internet so quickly and write things that you do not trust yourself face-to-face and you can even supposedly do it make it anonymous. " In fact, nobody is anonymous on the Internet, but in most cases the investigators do not investigate any further. According to the expert, it is important that those affected take screenshots when they are insulted, approach those around them and weigh up: "If you are merely insulted, you can ban someone, but if you are sexually approached, you should consider calling in the police."

In an open letter, Plan International calls on social media companies to develop better and, above all, simple reporting mechanisms that enable those affected to report online violence and hold perpetrators accountable. In Germany, every second girl (52 percent) reported inappropriate content.

But does that solve the problem by making it easier to report specific cases? Several factors play a role for the developmental psychologist, but he also sees companies as having the main responsibility: "A social medium can invite attacks to occur. Here, the providers and providers are explicitly responsible. Everyone wants the money with it earn, but nobody wants to take on the responsibilities, "says Herbert Scheithauer annoyed. He pointed out that the same discussion was going on over and over again about the Darknet.

For the university professor with the research areas of development science and applied developmental psychology, the situation is clear: "Anyone who offers platforms has a moral obligation to ensure that abuse is prevented. I would argue that the focus here is on maximizing profit." In fact, Instagram is in has become a gigantic marketing machine in recent years, loudly Bloomberg Instagram's advertising revenue in 2019 was $ 20 billion. According to Herbert Scheithauer, providers could ensure more security if there were effective reaction mechanisms with reporting procedures - this form of prevention not only requires the appropriate know-how, but above all the willingness to invest money.

In the second place, the expert sees parents as having a greater responsibility to control the general Internet access of children and adolescents. "When I see that 11-year-olds already have a smartphone with unrestricted internet access, I find it frightening. At the moment there is a carelessness that I cannot understand." Herbert Scheithauer is aware that especially with schoolchildren from disadvantaged families, with little time for the children and few opportunities, there is sometimes no corresponding trusting relationship with their parents to exchange information about media use or specific incidents - the scientist was most recently on the EU project Blurred Lives involved in research into cyberbullying among socio-economically disadvantaged young people. Scheithauer points out that this could also happen in "well-off" families. The trusting, good quality of the relationship between parents and child is important.

Scheithauer on Instagram and Co .: "These media play with young people"

In order to counter this problem, another focus for Scheithauer is on the independent, critical and reflective handling of young people with social networks. "It is precisely these media, which invite perfect presentation, to play with young people because they should know the risk. Instagram is 'good looks', that is the trend despite current counter-movements. According to the developmental psychologist, media rich in images such as Facebook and Instagram are so popular with young people because they can present themselves there in an "identity-forming way" and find it good when they receive positive feedback on their images and their appearance.

The catch: "Wherever there is beauty and perfection, you will not only find admirers, but also people who envy you. As a young person who only wants positive feedback, you may get unexpectedly many negative feedback Feedback, "explains the psychologist. And, according to Scheithauer, the young people are not prepared for this. There are also other forms of "digital violence".

The forms of harassment that the surveyed girls and young women experienced either personally or in the vicinity of friends are insults and insults, sexual harassment, personal humiliation, bodyshaming, racist comments, stalking, comments against sexual orientation, anti-LGBTIQ + as well as the Threat of physical violence.

But what is actually hidden behind the term "online gender-based harassment" ("digital, gender-specific harassment")? The World Girls' Report understands this to mean actions by one or more people who cause harm to another on the basis of their sexual or gender identity on the Internet. The survey shows a tendency: if the girls and women surveyed are also People of Color or identify as LGBTIQ +, the attacks often increase. Developmental psychologist Scheithauer confirms that the risk of discrimination increases with intersectionality, i.e. the overlap and simultaneity of different discrimination features such as skin color, gender or sexual orientation.

World Girls Report: This is how those affected react to digital violence

The ubiquitous phenomenon of cyberbullying, on which Herbert Scheithauer is researching, cannot automatically be equated with this. "In the case of cyberbullying, there must be a previous history. As a rule, there are no strangers here who bully - similar to what happens in the schoolyard," said Scheithauer. In a shit storm, on the other hand, an anger of strangers at the person concerned is virtually discharged. According to Scheithauer, the consequences of bullying, discrimination and harassment on the internet are "glaring". The research is aware of all the psychopathological consequences from school disinclination to fear and suicidal thoughts - by the way, perpetrators would also suffer from negative consequences.

The survey by Plan International describes the consequences of digital violence among the affected girls and women: mental or emotional stress (32 percent), lower self-esteem or less self-confidence (30 percent), fear that can be felt physically (23 percent), problems in the School, (17 percent) and problems in everyday life with friends or family (14 percent).

And how do those affected react on social media? The World Girls Report shows a wide range of possibilities here: Almost half (47 percent) ignore malicious comments, 15 percent reply, others use the corresponding social media platform less often (11 percent), and still others do not post any posts more, in which one's own opinion becomes recognizable or even leave the platform entirely. 33 percent of the girls and women subsequently increase the privacy settings of their profiles. The latter in particular is crucial, according to Scheithauer, because many are not aware of how much they are giving away freely. "When we work with young people, we go through the conditions, explain to them what happens to their content, and then our peers work with them to adjust the privacy settings in front of the computer."

The problem is that young people often only think of their immediate surroundings when posting and are not aware that the content is also visible beyond that and that potential trainers could come across it. As with discrimination and bullying, the social group structure is decisive here. According to Herbert Scheithauer, working with school classes must therefore work through relationships and the peer group, i.e. the group with the greatest influence.

Media literacy: "Medienhelden" prevention program in Bavaria prevents cyberbullying

The so-called social norm approach is decisive here, which also plays a role in the prevention of alcohol consumption, for example. Scheithauer describes it as follows: "Most of them don't want it at all, they feel sick or they drink alcohol because they think it will go down well. But when you talk about it in a social group, at some point they start to think and realize: Actually it's not cool to be drunk. And you can see that others feel the same way. " This standard approach also applies to bullying. If you ask students afterwards whether they think that's "cool", most of them don't feel that way anymore. "You have to take young people seriously and then you can work well with them," says the developmental psychologist. According to Scheithauer, role-playing games such as the "Fairplayer Manual" prevention program that he helped to develop are particularly helpful in changing mechanisms in the class structure.

When it comes to social media, the keyword is: media literacy. According to Herbert Scheithauer, it is essential that schools and families talk about how young people get along in the media world. "If the medium, the app or the platform is already geared towards the fact that everything screams for beauty, perfection and external ideals, I have to assume that this can have negative consequences. So you have to ask yourself: When do I need an Instagram - or Facebook profile? What do I put in there? " Young people should be made aware that they no longer have any control over disclosing content on the Internet.

This is where the "Medienhelden" prevention program comes in to prevent cyberbullying, which the university professor developed together with colleagues from the Free University of Berlin. With the help of the health insurance company BKK Mobil Oil, high schools, secondary schools and secondary schools in Bavaria have been able to participate since the end of 2018. Specifically, it is about the further training of teachers, social pedagogues and school social workers who then implement the program - in Bavaria, according to Scheithauer, hundreds have already taken part.

According to the university professor, the program is also well received by the students and the success is scientifically verifiable: "During the evaluation, we were able to prove that cyberbullying is taking place much less as a result of the program and is now also being implemented in South America and Asian countries", so Scheithauer. His aim is to obtain financial support so that the program can also be offered in other federal states or even in the entire federal territory in a timely manner.

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