iGen (those born between 1995 and 2012) have only known a world dominated by screens, the internet, and technology. They don’t know what it’s like to wait for a dial tone or send a fax. They text or tag their friends; they FaceTime and Xbox together. The internet has become the primary social interface for an entire generation.
The benefits of such a development are clear. The global village allows people on different continents to be good friends – it also ensures that a semester abroad doesn’t mean the end of a relationship. But there are challenges to this happy global village too.
The iGen Vulnerability
We mentioned that the internet allows relationships to break geographical bounds and become virtual. While true across age groups, studies show that roughly half of people between the ages of 18-29 are involved in online dating. The numbers go down as the age group gets older and vice versa. In terms of platonic friendships, 88% of teens reported spending significant time socializing online. So iGen kids are increasingly turning to the virtual world for their relationships, both platonic and romantic.
The trouble comes when we turn to reports of negativity and even hostility in online relationships. 44% of female online daters have experienced negative contact online and 53% reported receiving unwanted explicit images.
In a generation that takes online relationships seriously, these are high rates of negative contact.
The Scope and Reach of Online Negativity
Smartphones and digital social interactions have allowed negativity to reach children even in the safety of their own home or classroom.
Take, for example, the recent story of Salaya Grier from Hiawatha High School in Kansas. A 14-year African American ninth-grader, Salaya revealed to her mother that her online nickname in school is “orangutan” and showed her vicious and racially charged messages that she was consistently receiving from her peers. After her mother brought the matter to the police, a juvenile case was filed against the perpetrators for the charge of “harassment by telecommunication device.”
This is only one example of cyberbullying that can infiltrate online social relationships. On the video platform TikTok, popular with the younger end of the iGen, reports of bullying and abuse have been emerging increasingly over the past few years.
The messaging app, Whatsapp, can be used as a bullying platform as well, sometimes ending in disaster. Many times Whatsapp groups chats can result in multiple people ganging up on one of their peers, or groups that deliberately exclude others.
In a generation more and more dependent on screen-based interactions, bullying and toxicity is becoming more difficult to avoid. Parents and teachers are usually aware of the dangers posed by cyberbullying yet many can feel powerless to prevent it.
The effects of these kinds of online toxicity extend well beyond the words on the screen.
A recent study from the Depression & Anxiety journal found that for every 10% increase in negative online interactions, there was a 20% increase in reporting symptoms of depression. Moreover, women were found to be 50% more likely to report depression as a result of online negativity than men.
Safeguarding iGen for the Future
iGen, due to their familiarity with – and even reliance on – the internet for socializing, can be more vulnerable to online toxicity than their older counterparts.
Despite growing national and global awareness regarding the issue of online toxicity, the rates at which teens and young adults are reporting negativity online are still growing. It’s clear that a more aggressive and all-encompassing solution still needs to be implemented.
L1ght was founded with this solution in mind. With a sophisticated AI algorithm that understands online behavior, L1ght can work in real-time to prevent online toxicity and cyberbullying. With the future of iGen and the internet in question, L1ght is the answer.
To learn more, reach out and schedule a demo.