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Google Docs – The New Cyberbullying Forum

 

The rate of change in technology has meant that it takes a far greater commitment to keep up with your kids’ internet habits these days than ever before. But one thing hasn’t changed. That when children are presented with an obstacle, (like not being allowed to open or access a social media account) they’re crafty, and they’ll find a way around it.

Many schools have banned social media apps, websites, blogs and chat rooms and with firewalls, but children know that sites used for school work won’t be blocked. This is where Google Docs becomes a loophole. It may sound like an innocuous site for collaborative schoolwork with commenting and chatting between kids but it has the capacity to be turned into a rampant forum for cyberbullying.

 

What is Google Docs?

Google docs is Google’s answer to the Microsoft Word of yesteryear. It’s an online word processing application that has become a workplace and school standard. The advantage in the app is that it allows real time updates and collaboration on work and gives teachers digital access to students’ assignments and reports.

 

How is it being misused?

Children are creating new documents and sharing it with their friends – inviting them to become collaborators. Here different colours are assigned to different names and you can see who is commenting via little avatars. Many children will use the documents to chat, upload photos and links, gifs and memes and some will use it personally as a diary. In other cases students will go as far as using it to write mean or hurtful things about other students like a ‘digital burn book’. If they are found out or if they chat is over they can simply ‘resolve’ the comments or trash the entire document without a record.

 

How can we stop this?

As Google Docs is used by many schools for completing assignments it’s difficult to ban the use of the program. Kids will believe that because they are chatting in a forum that once the comments are gone, they’re gone, but much like Snapchat these things can be screenshotted. As always, education around the dangers of cyberbullying and encouraging open and honest communication between parents and children are the best methods of defence.