Teachers and Parents Demand Instagram Stop Enabling Bullying of Kids and Educators on Anonymous School ‘Confessions’ Accounts
NEW YORK—The American Federation of Teachers and ParentsTogether led a virtual petition delivery today to demand Instagram’s parent company, Meta, address rampant bullying of kids and teachers on its Instagram platform via anonymous school “confessions” accounts.
The petition, signed by over 10,000 classroom teachers, school staff and parents around the country, calls on Meta to urgently halt the proliferation of school “confessions” or “secrets” Instagram accounts to spread false rumors and abuse.
There are hundreds of such accounts currently live on Instagram, despite content that clearly violates community guidelines on bullying and harassment. Dozens of parents and teachers have reported them, but the company has repeatedly failed to act.
Common content includes posts featuring students’ and teachers’ full names and photos, rumors (often explicitly homophobic) about minors’ sexual activity, accusations of sexual misconduct against teachers, accusations of sexual assault, cruel mockeries of personal appearance (including blatant racism), and more.
Reporters can contact email@example.com to view examples of offensive Instagram accounts and posts for background purposes.
“The explosion of social media has changed how we all interact with each other, and while it can sometimes be a force for good, these platforms need to do a far better job of regulating behavior that is dangerous, disruptive and detrimental to our kids and educators’ mental health and well-being,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.
“That’s why we asked our union’s pension trustees to sanction Meta—and it’s why we’re delivering this petition today to demand the company address rampant bullying of kids and teachers on Instagram. Teachers and support staff want our students to have safe, welcoming schools where kids can learn, and the online harassment and abuse facilitated by Meta erodes and corrodes that ideal.”
Research suggests the accounts and similar types of online bullying are not only classroom distractions but also lead to a higher incidence of depression and even suicide for kids and teens.
“Online bullying, like the rumors, slurs and accusations these Instagram accounts enable, is dangerous for kids,” said Ailen Arreaza, co-director of ParentsTogether. “Recent research has shown online bullying leads to more suicidal thoughts and behaviors than in-person bullying. Educators and administrators have been trying to protect kids and put a stop to this kind of behavior for years, and parents are fed up with platforms like Instagram refusing to take their reports seriously and remove this harmful content.”
The rise of “confessions” accounts corresponds with increased disruptions and tension in school communities. Educators and administrators also indicate that the increased time spent trying to shut down or mitigate the effects of these accounts puts undue stress on teachers and school support staff.
The petition asks Instagram to:
- Enforce Instagram’s community guidelines by taking down all accounts that solely or primarily feature bullying content.
- Prioritize reports of harassment and bullying made from verified school accounts.
- Meet with a group of teachers and parents to better understand these accounts and the harm they cause in school communities.
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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.