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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 Temitayo Fagbenle finds disturbing is something she calls "slut-shaming," or using photos and videos to turn a girl's private life inside out. How often do you see sexually explicit images of your peers in social media news feeds? What do you think when you see images like this? Do you think sexual cyberbullying is a problem?
Temitayo is a youth reporter for Radio Rookies, a New York Public Radio initiative that gives teens the tools and training to tell true stories about issues important to them. She decided to do the story, Sexual Cyberbullying: The Modern Day Letter A, because she noticed that a lot of sexually explicit videos of girls were ending up on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. Teenagers often encourage this when it happens by liking, sharing and commenting on the images countless times.
“Slut shaming” isn’t new; it’s been going on for centuries. In her story, Temitayo compares sexual cyberbullying to the book the Scarlett Letter. The main character, Hester Pryne, lives in the 1600s--Puritan times. She cheats on her husband and has to wear a letter A on her chest (A= Adulteress) for the rest of her life.
Similarly, when photos and videos are posted online they can follow you forever. There are countless websites, Facebook pages and Twitter handles that are created to shame girls online, many are literally called "exposing hos." Temitayo tried twice to report a sexually explicit picture she saw of a teenage girl to Facebook, but they didn’t take it down. Do you think Facebook or other social media sites have any responsibility in this?
"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 young woman 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!'"
In the age of social media, schools have had to take on a new role. 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."