More than one in three children and young adults say they have received a hate letter in the past year. This happened repeatedly in 18% of children and 22% of young adults. Girls were more likely to experience this than boys. Among high school students, these hateful messages were often related to her appearance or her personality. But hate speech on the basis of nationality or race was also commonplace.
Every two years, Mediawijs, Mediaraven and Imec-MICT investigate the digital environment of Flemish schoolchildren in the Apestaart Years Study. About 3,700 young people between the ages of 6 and 18 completed the survey this time. 32 percent of elementary school children and 24 percent of high school students reported having experienced cyberbullying in the past year. In 9 percent, bullying was a regular occurrence. Girls in particular report being bullied. Half of the cases involved verbal abuse via text or other online messages.
Young people also deal with a lot of inappropriate things. Many have already watched content that glorifies anorexia, encouraging them to self-harm (automation) or even commit suicide. Among high school students 37% have already encountered content about hurting yourself, and this was 18% among children in the third grade of elementary school. This is a higher percentage of young adults who say they have encountered pornography in the past year.
Marek Vanden-Abele, professor of digital culture at Ghent University, does not immediately see the reasons for panic in the research results. Not every encounter with this type of content is problematic. “As adults, we have to realize that we don’t see part of the media experience of young people,” she says. In Tiktok, it is the algorithm that determines what you will see and what you will not see. “As a parent, you have no idea what the Tiktok algorithm does for your children.”
Vanden Abeele says it is important to talk to children about such content online. Unfortunately, according to the same study, not enough attention is given particularly early enough in education. While children, on average, get their first smartphone at eight years and four months and begin their “digital puberty,” more than half of elementary school children say they have never learned topics such as gaming, sexting, cyberbullying or privacy Online or fake news. Even in many high schools, these topics are rarely discussed in class.
The sixth grader of Sint-Joost-aan-Zee was present to present the Apetaart Years Numbers. Did they really have to deal with videos about hurting yourself on Tiktok? Students immediately talk about the “labello challenge”. It could mean that viewers are urged to grab a piece of Labello’s lip liner if they feel bad. When the tag runs out, they must commit suicide.
It sounds terrifying, but in the end it turns out that mainly young people watch videos About Who saw a sinister challenge: excerpts from media reports and users who warn of it. It is not at all clear if the challenge really exists, but the students of Brussels all have something to say about it.
11-year-old Hana, from the same class, says she regularly watches videos on her Tiktok profile with people who say they are too fat and won’t eat for a week.
According to Mariek Vanden Abeele, parents from the Monkey Tail Study are best to remember that they should talk to their children about these topics. “You can use these numbers to explain to young people how the algorithms work,” she says. ‘It is important that they see how feed It is not a neutral reflection of the internet and that you can influence the content you see. There are also many places on social media where support is offered on such issues. Many influencers on social media, who often know children well, are really agitating against the idea of beauty.