Facebook helps kids manage their digital footprint with kindness

Teaching kids how to play nice in the real world is challenging. Move this same scenario online and interactions become even more complicated. With no connection to a face or a voice, a simple misunderstanding can escalate to hurt feelings on all sides. One of the areas that is difficult to deal with is when a friend posts a photo that includes you.

With 300 million photos posted on Facebook every day, most people will have to deal with a friend posting a photo you do not want online. In many cases, the friend did not intended to hurt you nor does the picture violate Facebook’s Community Standards. Often these photos are reported to Facebook where reporting can lead to unfriending or blocking that person. For a photo you simply don’t like what you are wearing and wish your friend had not posted it, this is a harsh solution.

Facebook and a team of researchers from Yale University and UC Berkeley developed a better way for friends to communicate with each other. At Facebook’s 2nd Compassion Research Day, they presented an updated social reporting tool. This new tool gave people an opportunity to share their feelings behind why they wanted the picture removed.

Researchers found the choice of language online was critical. By addressing a person by name, being polite instead of “Hey, I don’t like this photo“ and letting them know how you feel increased having a positive interaction. These words brought back a human face and voice.

The researchers found this new language worked. After receiving a request, half of the people chose to remove the content. In the old reporting system, only a third chose to remove it. In the new system, roughly 75 percent of the people replied to the messages they received. That’s a nearly 50 percent increase from the number who replied to the old kinds of messages.

Facebook also provides language on the other end. Even if a friend decides not to take down the photo, the tool gives them choices to explain why. In a situation where a kid is  dealing with more than just an unflattering photo, they can choose to send a message to a trusted adult on Facebook asking for help.

The new social reporting tool is still in the early changes. The importance of language in our online dialogues extends beyond our Facebook Timelines. Kids and parents can use this tool as a model for effective online communications. When all we have are words, it is critical kids learn to choose the right ones to bring back a face and voice to our online conversations.