What brands should know about the dark side of Facebook

As concern over bullying of teenagers on Facebook grows, marketers must play their part in tackling the dark side of social media, writes Nicola Clark.

The research director of a media agency once explained away statistics showing that a growing number of teenagers have dumped a 'significant other' via text message, as evidence that young people were 'embracing new platforms to better communicate'.

In the Facebook era, where the ups and downs of teenage romance are displayed online, the fundamentally flawed nature of this logic is clear.

Although teenagers today are better connected, it is wrong to assume this means they have better communication skills. The digital revolution has come with significant drawbacks.

While it is deeply unfashionable to admit it, I can't be the only one who is grateful that Facebook was not around to chart my catalogue of teenage heartache, and my succession of equally questionable outfits.

Growing up has never been easy, but young people today face the additional challenge of the social-media minefield.

For this generation of digital natives, interactivity is second nature. Concerts are to be filmed, not watched, notes are to be posted on walls, not in post boxes, and opinions are to be expressed in 'likes', not lengthy discussions on a fixed-line telephone.

While these young consumers represent the future of marketing, there remain challenges for marketers seeking to better engage with them, not least growing concerns over the worst ravages of cyber bullying.

Educators around the world have raised concerns about the impact of cyber bullying, and last week a headmistress in Australia threatened to expel students under the age of 13 who refuse to delete their Facebook accounts.

In the wake of its IPO, it is all too easy to wax lyrical about the fantastic opportunities Facebook affords consumers and brands.

However, marketers need to recognise the dark underbelly of cyber-bullying and promote better support and protection to help stamp out this terrible scourge of social media.



- Cyber-bullying

Marketers investing in social networks must understand that connectivity comes with responsibility. The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre revealed in 2010 that complaints about grooming and bullying on Facebook had quadrupled in the preceding 12 months.

- Digital dexterity doesn't equate to critical thinking

Just because teens are using more channels, doesn't mean they are innately more knowledgeable. A study has found that 25% of students chose a research source because it was the first search result.

- Digital attention disorder

With research reports claiming that the average teenager sends 167 text messages a day, there is no disputing there are more channels competing for young people's attention than ever before.

- Parents as Facebook stalkers

Brands should take note of studies reporting parents' concern over how their kids use social media. According to data from AVG, 60% of US parents secretly check their children's Facebook accounts, compared with 40% in the UK.

Nicola Clark is Marketing's head of features. Follow her on Twitter: @nickykc.


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


Leaked document shows Nokia to be rebranded as Microsoft Mobile
Nike lays-off hardware staff in move that casts doubt on future of FuelBand
Greenpeace says save the bees or humans will die
What brands need to know about changes to VAT and online downloads in 2015
Jimmy Savile victims urged to claim compensation in new ad campaign
UKIP launches biggest  ad campaign and stirs up 'racist' accusations
Apple boss Tim Cook provides voiceover on ad touting firm's renewed green commitments
John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message
Lynx unleashes £9m 'Peace invasion' campaign
Social Brands 100 Youth: Pizza Hut most social youth brand in UK
Cheryl Cole is wild and arresting in new L'Oreal work
Morrisons told not to show alcohol ads during YouTube nursery rhymes
O2 head of brand Shadi Halliwell departs after 23 years at company in restructure
Tesco hit by further sales decline as it turns to digital Clubcard and social network
Branding guru Wally Olins dies aged 83
Duracell short film captures epic Transatlantic voyage