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Teenage girl sitting at a table holding an orange smart phone. Cyberbullying

New Type of Cyberbullying: Online Roasting

August 12, 2016

Roasting is a term from comedy where a comedian roasts another person with good humor, but now also encompasses online roasting of individuals as a new type of cyberbullying.

The trend started on Reddit, where users would post pictures of themselves holding up a sign saying “Roast Me,” consenting to the satire. But it has now expanded to other social media sites like Facebook, Whatsapp, and Snapchat. And the big difference is that this is usually done without the consent or desire of the individual to be roasted.

Initially, roasting can start out innocuous and light-hearted; however, that is not where it always ends. Teens of all ages and genders are participating in the new trend. But a recent study points to research showing that girls are more likely to cyberbully and be bullied online, including roasting. Below are a few ways to discuss roasting with your child and how to know if it has moved from banter to bullying.

Understanding The Different Types of Cyberbullying: Encouraging Communication

Open up a dialogue about bullying, cyberbullying and roasting. Ask open ended, but specific, questions about these topics. For example: “Have you heard about roasting online?” “Have you ever experienced roasting or participated in roasting someone else?” "If so, what was the experience like?” This kind of dialogue demonstrates that you are open to listening to what your child has to say on the subject and that they can come talk to you about it.

Some children are afraid to come forward about being roasted, even when it has moved into bullying. This is because they don’t want to be seen as someone who can’t take a joke. You can explain that humiliating, harsh criticism is not roasting — it is bullying. If the roasting has moved from something silly to something hurtful, then it’s no longer a joke and it’s okay to ask a trusted adult for help. Validate their feelings and together come up with a solution on how to respond to the bullying. Recommend solutions that revolve around consent, being a responsible digital citizen, and using empathy when faced with tough situations.

Talk About Consent

While Reddit may not be the best model for social behavior, the original postings were Redditors who consented to the roasts. However, now that roasting has spread to other social media platforms this is not always the case. Discussions about consent in this context can help your child understand when roasting turns to bullying.

One thing to remind your children is that “yes” is not a forever and always word. Just because someone has initially consented to some silly joking around doesn’t mean they have consented to more than that. And even if they did initially consent, they can say no later. Respecting whether or not someone has consented to protracted banter is part of being a smart digital citizen. Online responsibility includes checking in and making sure people are still okay with how the conversation is going.

Digital Citizenship and Empathy

One way to be a responsible digital citizen is to employ empathy in communications online. Talk to your child about what empathy means, have a discussion about what being kind and compassionate looks like. Ask them, “If you were in the other person’s shoes how would you feel about the things that are being said?” Or remind them that if they wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, they should not say it on social media. It's important for kids to understand this concept, even if they are using sites where posts are anonymous. Everyone has a responsibility to be a positive influencer in their group by being courteous and respectful in communications. This is true even when it’s a group text among friends.

Remind your children that it is okay to have fun with their friends through social media, but to think about their actions and to not have fun at another person’s expense. An open dialogue that focuses on consent and empathy can help your child navigate social media with an intent to have positive interactions. Bark can be part of this discussion! Explain that we’re a tool that helps keep them safe online and alerts you to potential types of cyberbullying and online predators. Our alerts also provide expert advice on finding solutions to these issues.

Bark helps families manage and protect their children’s digital lives.

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