Although anonymity has long been a source of safety, especially in political and human rights situations, it has been cited largely as a source of danger where teens and social media are concerned.
Ask.fm, a social media that allows anonymous posting, figured prominently in early coverage of UK teen Hannah Smith’s suicide, and US teen Hannah Anderson was using the site to answer questions about her ordeal just two days after being rescued, the Christian Science Monitor reported.
John LeBlanc, MD, author of a study about cyberbullying and suicide wrote that allowing anonymity “may encourage cyberbullying. It is difficult to prove a cause and effect relationship, but I believe there is little justification for anonymity.”
So we need to know more about the anonymity factor, but here are some things we do know already:
Young people aren’t using anonymity only for harm. They do their social and identity development work in social media as well as in offline life now, and they find safety in anonymity when they do (just as we did as teens, using other media and spaces).
It’s good for adults to know that so they can help their children and students see that, by inviting comments or sharing struggles in public spaces online, they could be inviting cruelty as well as the constructive feedback they’re probably seeking.
“When teens are specifically taught that there are certain aspects of life that are better dealt with face to face – whether it’s asking someone out on a date or seeking help … after a traumatic experience – they are receptive to it,” the Christian Science Monitor cites Elizabeth Englander as saying.
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Anne Collier blogs at Net Family News.