Sexual Cyberbullying: The Modern Day Letter A

These days, many teenagers live half their lives on social media sites, and they're writing the rules as they go. One online trend 16-year-old Radio Rookie Temitayo Fagbenle finds disturbing is something she calls "slut-shaming," or using photos and videos to turn a girl's private life inside out.

There are countless websites, Facebook pages and Twitter handles that are created to shame girls online, many are literally called "exposing hos." When Temitayo logs in to Facebook her newsfeed is often inundated with sexually explicit photos and videos of other teenage girls that are posted, commented on, and shared countless times by her peers. Once these images make it online the repercussions can haunt a girl far beyond the schoolyard. 

"Once it gets to a social media network it’s over for her life," one of Temitayo's classmates said. She gathered a group of girls from her school to talk about why so many teenagers, especially girls, harass each other online. "Girls do it to themselves," another girl explained, "half the time we can’t even blame guys." 

But another student pointed out that a lot of girls don't even know they're being recorded. She said, "it’s not fair that a guy can actually hide his phone, have sex with you and record you, and then show it to his friends, like, 'Yo, look, look, look!'" 

That nightmare scenario was a reality for another one of Temitayo's classmates. When the young girl was only 14, her boyfriend filmed a sexually explicit video of her without her knowledge and then posted it on Facebook and other social media sites. "He was going around holding his head high saying, “'Oh well, I was able to do this with her.' He gave me a bad name," the girl said.

Schools have had to take on a new role in the age of social media.

Some students screenshot the cyberbullying they see online, print it out and bring it to their teachers as evidence. Erica Doyle, the Assistant Principal at Temitayo's school said, "Once we’re dealing with digital media that is sexually explicit that has been captured and shared with the public, that actually now is a criminal matter."

One of Temitayo's male friends was arrested in the 8th grade for emailing a topless picture of his girlfriend to hundreds of students at their middle school. Temitayo asked him if he did it out of malice, but he brushed the question off and said he just thought it would be cool. "I regret doing it to her but still, I didn’t have to go to jail. Porn websites do it everyday."

 

On Tuesday, January 8th, Radio Rookies will facilitate an online live chat with students from classrooms around the country to talk about the cyberbullying issues this story brings to light, including:

  • The atmosphere of judgement and criticism associated with photo sharing and commenting on social network sites, and the double standard that applies to boys and girls
  • Strategies for controlling your online reputation and what teens can do to clean up their digital footprint
  • The repercussions of sexual cyberbullying both in school and in the courts
  • What can teenagers, educators, policy makers and social media sites can do to help stop cyberbullying

Temitayo will host the chat with Radio Rookies producers facilitating the discussion and moderating comments.

If you’re interested in taking part in the live chat or have questions, please contact Radio Rookies Associate Producer, Courtney Stein: cstein@wnyc.org