Sexual Bullying in a Digital World

texting-smWhile some instances of sexual bullying are obvious and happen, often incredibly, right before our eyes, others are more difficult to detect, but the harm to all victims and perpetrators can be long-lasting.

That’s because sexual bullying often occurs on apps and websites that youth access through smart phones, tablets, and computers where adults forget or don’t even know to look. The popularity of apps changes very quickly, especially among youth, which makes monitoring them even more challenging for adults.

  • A Snapchat picture of a girl with the word “slut” scrawled over it travels from phones to social media.
  • A post on Yik Yak (a popular app that allows people to post and reply to comments with complete anonymity) ridicules a student for his perceived sexual orientation.
  • Self-taken pictures (“selfies”) of a youth in a state of undress (which may also be considered child pornography by local and federal law enforcement) is shared among a student body first via text message and then online.
  • A teen girl takes a risque Snapchat picture and sends it to her boyfriend. Without her knowing, he secretly uses another app to save the picture to his phone. She breaks up with him several weeks later. The disgruntled ex-boyfriend sends the picture to his friends, who send it to their friends, who post it online and share it through social media. Snapchat is a popular mobile app that youth use to send pictures to each other. Although the pictures supposedly “disappear” 10 seconds after being viewed, there are easy ways for recipients to save a photo to their phones.