Unmoderated message boards like 8chan have been in the news recently due to reports of several radicalized mass-shooters having used these types of platforms. 8Chan is also being investigated for links to child sex abuse. This has left many parents wondering — how can they prepare for the possibility of their children encountering these kinds of sites?
“Youth are very impressionable,” licensed marriage and family therapist Nicole Garcia tells Parentology. “Without monitoring sites like 8chan, these avenues can be damaging. Those exposed [to user posts] may feel coerced and be fed incorrect or misinterpret information.”
Garcia says teens are especially at risk because they “don’t feel heard or feel they don’t have power and control in their own lives, and this type of site allows them to vent frustration, openly share their own thoughts, and rebel against societal norms.”
Impressionability is one of the greatest dangers of these types of message boards. Kids who haven’t yet developed firm foundations or belief systems may be searching for where they fit in society.
Garcia says children may “gravitate towards those that will listen and allow them to express themselves freely, or they mimic certain behaviors to fit in and feel accepted,” even if they don’t share the same ideology.
One of the greatest sociological ramifications for young people spending time on sites like 8chan is what Garcia refers to as a domino effect. If a child is vulnerable and impressionable, sites that permit negative, unfiltered responses can be confusing. “This would affect a person’s worldview, potentially increasing judgment/prejudice and dislike of a people that affect their social setting. This may [influence] how they react to those their group has identified as a problem.”
So what should parents do to protect their children? “At the end of the day, these sites aren’t the problem, it’s a lack of parental guidance and supervision,” Garcia says. “I’d encourage parents to be proactive to prevent any possible damage that could stem from such sites…be willing and prepared to talk with their children about such topics.”
Having open and honest conversations about trending, sometimes uncomfortable topics versus sheltering kids from them is key. This allows parents the opportunity to normalize the questioning process, correct misinformation and reshape potentially damaging thoughts garnered from sites like 8chan.
Garcia puts it this way, “…children exploring other views isn’t a bad thing. It’s important that parents educate their children on relevant issues and allow them a voice and opinion, while providing them a safe avenue for exploration of their own thoughts.”
8chan Safe for Kids: Sources
Nicole Garcia, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
The Syndey Morning Herald: 8chan being investigated for child sex abuse