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Cyberbullying on Anonymous "Tea" Accounts

Posted by Axis on September 24, 2020

A long-standing trend of anonymous “shade room” gossip accounts on social media persists its way into 2020 where students post gossip, anonymous confessions, and drama going on at school. Unfortunately, these accounts are a targeted center for cyberbullying and not just a place to connect with peers. Made by middle school and high school students, these accounts appear mainly on Instagram, which, according to 2020 research, is the most-used social media platform for cyberbullying. 

Making sure that our kids keep an uplifting, Christ-centered presence online is more important than ever. This trend of having an anonymous online presence can become harmful to our teens as they begin to explore more complex social relationships. Here’s everything you need to know about these “tea” accounts, and how you can help your teen to navigate them if students at their school have made similar accounts.

How these accounts came to be 

In 2016, apps like Yik Yak and After School allowed students to anonymously share their thoughts with others in their neighboring community (although they were eventually taken down because of their controversial nature). Here’s how the apps worked: Yik Yak used its user’s location to stream local people together, and whatever was posted in the area showed up as an anonymous comment for everyone to see; similarly, After School acted as an open chat forum for students to post comments about different topics and events (this app also used an age requirement to keep any adults from seeing this content). 

While the apps provided entertainment and a sense of community, it also made intense cyberbullying and violation of others’ privacy a little too easy. Even though these apps haven’t been available since 2017, we’re seeing the same theme of anonymous “tea”/gossip play out with anonymous Instagram accounts. 

Why it’s still popular today

The “tea” Instagram accounts allow teens to keep up with school gossip without being directly involved. It also directly references the students’ personal lives that they can talk about and understand more closely. Common accounts feature the school’s name with “tea,” “shade,” “tea page,” and “shade room.” This trend follows the slang phrases “Spill the tea” and “throw shade” as a way to show interest in any insider information someone may have to share. Additionally, the accounts’ anonymous nature allows the user to spread gossip and harmful jokes while keeping their identity hidden from authority figures and peers. 

An important aspect of these accounts is the confessions. Many Gen Z students look for ways to connect/confess something they feel is bothering them through online forums. It’s likely that many students don’t feel comfortable or safe sharing these things with friends or family, so they turn to the internet for support. It goes without saying that sharing deeply personal information on any online forum has its risks, so be sure to talk with your teen about the consequences of “anonymous confessions,” because as we know, what’s on the internet lives forever.

So, what can we do?

While many accounts are taken down by the school and concerned parents, there are some accounts that are still flourishing today. Here are some tips on how to contribute to the battle against cyberbullying and support your kids while they're at school. 

1. If you find one of these accounts, report it on Instagram. Once you click on the account, follow these steps to report it:
    • Go to the top right-hand corner and click the three dots. 
    • Select the “Report” option in red. This will send a report to Instagram headquarters where they will review the page and hopefully ban the account from the app.

2. Talk to the school about their anti-bullying strategies/efforts. Hopefully, your teen’s school has a strategy in place to help their students battle bullying both in school and online. If they don’t, encourage them to start a conversation about this issue. Creating an anti-bullying club or committee that parents and teens can be involved in can be a great way to start! 

3. Ask your teen about bullying in their school. The solution to bullying can often be solved within the home. If your teen has been bullying others, one possible reason could be that they don’t feel seen, and in turn, they’re lashing out at others as a coping mechanism. 

In general, bullies’ behavior usually stems from their own problems. Stopbullying.gov reports that bullies tend to have less involved parents, to be less excited about school, and to be depressed or anxious.” -endcyberbullying.net

Talking to them and getting to the root of their aggression can help them heal from whatever they are dealing with. If your teen is being bullied, their instincts may tell them to hide their suffering and shut out others. Confronting your kids in a gentle, loving way may open the door to understanding what they’re going through. If your teen has witnessed bullying, going through ways to actively deal with this issue can help your teen to fight against a toxic environment. Encourage your teen to speak up when they see something wrong, and to invite their friends to do the same.

4. Promote positive messages. There are many accounts on Instagram that aim to counteract the negativity that thrives online. Create a positive account for your school and start positive change! Check out these accounts:TheShadeRoomChurch, positivedelight, and bbleverses for great examples of what this looks like. You can also promote positivity in your everyday life by regularly engaging your kids in positive, uplifting messages and perspectives. 

5. Seek out support groups/ communities for your teen. This can be a therapy group, friend/youth group, formal support group, or anything that may help your kids feel loved and cared for. 

Discussion questions

Bullying can be a difficult topic to talk about in an honest productive way. Consider these questions as you engage with your teen about these anonymous “tea” accounts, and the negative messages they can carry. 

  1. Does your school have a gossip account? If so, do you follow them? Why or why not? 
  2. Do you like “tea” accounts (for school, celebrities, etc)? Why or why not? 
  3. Have you ever heard of the After School app or Yik Yak? 
  4. How can we counteract the negativity that these accounts showcase? 
  5. Do you follow any accounts that are uplifting and positive? 
  6. Is bullying a problem in your school? 
  7. Have you ever been targeted by a bully? If so, what happened? 
  8. Have you ever been unkind to someone online, or participated in gossip? What happened?
  9. Do you have a trustworthy outlet you can use when you’re feeling down or conflicted about something? 
  10. Do you feel supported by your friends and family? Why or why not?
  11. How can you be empathetic toward others when you see someone being bullied at school or online? 

Keep exploring

Did you find these questions helpful? We would love to have your feedback! Let us know your thoughts in the comments below! 

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