As a school administrator, teacher, or PR professional, it’ll come as no surprise that some kids in your school are cyberbullying others. Bullying has taken on many forms and in this digital age, it has become more public than you might think. Here’s what you need to know about the latest cyberbullying trend: fake school accounts called “tea” or “shade” rooms.
“Tea” or “shade” refers to hot, new, exclusive details and rumors, usually harmful and false. A “tea” or “shade” room is an account, usually on Instagram, that is created to accept rumors via DMs that the account holder can then publish publicly for everyone to see. These rumors are usually generic, mean, and false, but nonetheless involve two individuals at the school. Oftentimes, these accounts incorporate the school name in the handle of the account, like “@highschoolshade”. Because of the name, these accounts may even appear before your school’s official Instagram account when someone is searching for your school by name.
If a situation like this arises at your school, here are three things you can do:
1. Do your reSEARCH
Search for the fake school account that has been brought to your attention. Find it and see for yourself what is being said. See if there are any other accounts like this in your school by searching other keywords. This will help you understand what action is necessary. If anything harmful or threatening is present, rope in your local law enforcement. They can help handle certain situations where someone might be in danger. Additionally, you may report these incidents to the social media companies. While they will not remove an account for simply making false statements about an individual, if they are in physical danger, all social media companies have practices to support removal in these instances.
2. Get to the source
Once you’re made aware of a fake school account like this, it’s always best if you can get to the source of it. Whether it’s students in your school that created it or another party, this will help you take action. Again, it might be necessary to call upon local law enforcement depending on the circumstance. Once you’ve developed a more thorough understanding of the issue at hand, you’ll most likely want to advise your students to report and block the account. If only a handful of students are being targeted by the account, tell them directly. This will keep it out of their sight and let Instagram (or other platforms) know what is happening. You might also find it helpful to meet with other administrators to put together a plan of action for reporting it yourself to the respective social media company.
3. Create a culture of encouraging students to speak up
These kinds of situations can be handled much smoother when students feel it is safe to report it to school administrators in the first place. Oftentimes, if there is trust between both parties, students will be the first to let you know something like this is even happening. Work to make sure they always feel involved and comfortable with discussing these issues with faculty and staff.
If we want to improve bullying, we must understand where it comes from. Staying on top of these trends will help you successfully lead your school and students.
Building a team of students that are invested in the school’s brand and social media helps combat these kinds of issues at the source. Empowering student leaders to collaboratively create content in your school will help build a new generation of students that know the proper way to utilize technology. When this happens, it creates dialogue about social media for the school, elevating the role of students and giving them a vested interest in the success of the school’s social media. When students have ownership like this, they feel as though they can step in to report something that threatens the school they care about.
If you have additional questions or need help please feel free to reach out to us.