Blocking, on most social media platforms and apps, means to completely hide someone from your feed. You won’t see the blocked person and that person won’t see you. It is the ultimate way to avoid or hide from someone. Sounds extreme? Well, kids do it A LOT.
Children block on social media all the time, but not all blocks are the same. A block can mean a passing argument between friends (although, passing doesn’t necessarily stand for trivial), or it can point to harassment or bullying. A block tells many tales, and there’s a lot parents can do, or should avoid doing, for each one.
First, the facts about children and blocking
Thanks to Jiminy, the parental monitoring app, we have some facts about children’s blocking habits.
First, we know the majority of blockers are girls, who mostly block strangers or persons they had a very brief acquaintance with.
33% of boys and 44% of girls, ages 9-12 have blocked at least one person online, in a period of 2 months.
About half of all blocks happen without any messages exchanged before the block.
About 41% of blocks happen between friends or someone the child already knew and had contact with in the past. The other 59% are blocks of strangers, with none to few messages exchanged between the child and the block target.
For children who did block – the average boy, ages 9-12, blocks 1.7 persons per week. For girls of the same age groups, the average is 2.1 blocks every week.
Jiminy data shows some children may block 40-60 of their contacts in one week. This indicates a much more serious event than just an argument between friends.
Why do children block?
The info above teaches us a few things about why children block.
Some children hit the block button after being harrassed – In some cases, the child will block a new contact, after receiving a few messages and not replying at all.
Some children block their bullies – if the child blocked an unusually high number of persons in a short while, it might mean the child was feeling bullied or attacked by those people. That is one hint, but of course, the child might have felt bullied even if she or he only blocked very few persons.
Children block friends after a fight – some children use the block feature an argument with friend or acquaintance. Sometimes it’s a minor disagreement, sometimes it’s a full-blown fight. Sometimes, the block is only temporary, until the next fight.
Sometimes, children just want someone out of their feed – could be a stranger whose posts they hate or a friend who fell from grace and silently blocked. This is the way for children, and adults as well, to keep their digital world neater and more pleasant.
What can parents do?
First, understand that blocking was probably the right choice. Kids have ‘Internet smart’s’ and adults should usually trust a child’s instinct when deciding to block someones, even in cases of harmless arguments between friends.
However, parents should be aware that a block might represent one of the other scenarios mentioned above, and be on the lookout for signs of distress.
If your child seeks your advice, listen carefully to what happened. There are two common mistakes parents should try to avoid at all costs:
1. Whatever happened, don’t dismiss it as mere “social drama”, since it’s important to your child.
2. Don’t get too caught up in the social intrigue either, as in most cases neither side is entirely right, and friendships may shift rather quickly at young ages.
Instead, empathize. Tell your child you’re sorry that whatever happened indeed happen. If there is any need to resolve the situation, don’t take over, but rather ask your child how would he or she like to approach it, and brainstorm together. This is not only a problem to be solved but also an opportunity to learn some lifelong social skills.
When bullies get blocked
When blocking happens en-masse, it might mean the child was harassed or bullied. If that happened, blocking indicates good judgment on the child’s behalf and should be commended. It’s the first step in dealing with that situation, before seeking help from an adult.
In the case of bullying, there’s certainly a lot parents can do. Click this link for a list of articles that will help you understand online bullying and how to handle it – Stand up to the online and offline bully!
What can parents do if they discover their child was being harassed?
In the case that harassment, you can start by commending for doing the right thing by blocking the offending persons.
Let your child know that you are sorry that the harassment took place and that no one should go through such a thing. Assure him or her you will find a way out of this situation together, and that you will not do anything without the child’s input.
Talk with your child, and collect as much information as you can. Take screenshots of the harassment and document whatever evidence you have. (There might not be any need for this evidence, but if you’ll have to report this matter, it will be much more difficult to ignore if you’ll have this documentation).
Report the abuse on the relevant online channels. Social media companies don’t always take action in case of harassment, but they might intervene if there is clear evidence of abusive behavior. These links will show you how to report harassment on Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook:
Instagram – https://help.instagram.com/547601325292351
Snapchat – https://www.snap.com/en-US/safety/safety-reporting
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/help/263149623790594
However, don’t count on these reports. If the harassment continues, blocking offending is the best immediate course of action.
If your child was asked for pictures by a stranger, or if personal identifying details were given, please consider alerting your local law enforcement, contacting the Cyber Tipline (http://www.missingkids.com/gethelpnow/cybertipline), and alerting your child’s school regarding the possible danger. Cases of abduction following online contact are extremely rare, but taking these precautions is still recommended.
How can parents know about the blocks?
A parental monitoring app such, as Jiminy, can tell parents if their child blocked one or a few, or many users, and if there were any messages exchanged before the block. These are the things parents need to know in order to address each blocking scenario appropriately.
If you’re a parent of a young child, you can download Jiminy here. It’s blocking feature will let you know when a block happens, along with many other important aspects of your child’s digital life.