Most adults are familiar with the entertainment version of the word “roasting”. Roasts are traditionally intended as light-hearted dinners where various guests take turns “roasting” a guest of honor with good-natured jokes at that person’s expense. The key here is the phrase “good natured”. As we’ve all witnessed, it can get awkward and downright uncomfortable. For example, remember Michael Scott getting roasted on The Office, or our current opposing politicians taking shots at one another during a black-tie event in Washington D.C. last year? A roast that turns from light-hearted to vicious is becoming all too common. Guess who’s catching on? Our teenagers.
Too Young to Roast
It all started with the hashtag #ROASTME. Teenagers would post a picture or video on a social media channel (i.e. Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, reddit or group text) of themselves with #ROASTME. Like a traditional “roast” they were giving consent for people to make funny comments about what they posted. However, like most things that are exposed online, the opportunity to post malicious, hurtful comments has gone unchecked and has spiraled out of control.
Why this is such a dangerous trend is the unimaginable repercussions, which teenagers are often too young to understand.
- Teenagers are also more likely to follow others, feeling justified in participating and escalating the negative, hurtful remarks to make themselves look “cooler”
- It happens so fast there is no time to distinguish the moment it turns dangerous
- The anonymity of social postings enables teenagers to disassociate themselves from what is happening to another human being
- The fact that someone is being hurt is easily compartmentalized, allowing the teenager witnessing or participating in the behavior to feel blameless
The bottom line is that online roasting about and by teenagers is harmful. Some issues to be mindful about when hearing about #ROASTING are:
- Posts aren’t always made by the person being roasted
- If the teenager is doing the posting, they may be trying to get attention any way possible, increasing their feelings of isolation or self-hatred
- A person being roasted, without their consent, may suffer from depression or feel like an “outsider”, enabling these posts to push them over the edge
Monitor Teenage Online Interactions
What can we do as parents to protect our adolescents? Have access to their social channels and monitor them from time to time. If #ROASTME or #ROASTING appears, sit down with your child and talk to them about it immediately. What is funny and lighthearted to them may be the shove that pushes a fellow classmate over the edge to self-hatred or even suicide.
I would rather be the bummer parent policing my child’s online behavior, than the parent of a cyber bully that had a hand in the demise of another human being. Wouldn’t you?
Timothy Dimoff – Speaker, National Expert, Author
Tim Dimoff’s engaging and thought-provoking presentations are sure to enlighten, inform and move you into taking action on such critical issues as workplace risks, substance abuse, security and societal threats. Feel free to contact Tim today to speak at your organization.