The dark side of social media: Grooming, Revenge porn, Sexting, Cyberbullying and Internet Banging

When social media become dangerous?

Violence is defined by the World Health Organization as “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation”, but nowadays there is a new form of violence modern and fast that creeps in our social media.

It is now established that social media also have a dark side and, as well as everything in this world, the other side of the coin can often be dangerous.
People chat, share ideas and materials so they feel that they meet their membership needs together with the groups that have joined.
Social media is not just a field of freedom in which individuals express themselves, but also an area where different forms of violence show up.

Digital violence is subtle, and becomes part of our lives in a silent way and obviously young people and weaker people are more in danger.
The way to combat media violence is first all recognize it.

What does it mean “Digital violence”?

The forms of digital violence are different and to protect ourselves, minors and those who do not know how to defend themselves, we must recognize them.

Internet Banging

When a number of gang members is using social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, insulting and threatening by coming to victimize or committing murders, we are facing a case of internet banging. Gangs spend a significant amount of time surfing the Internet, particularly social media sites.
Gangs engage in a number of online activities including posting videos, watching videos, announcing activities, inciting dares, making fun of a recent homicide or victimization, displaying weapons, and discussing and displaying illegal and other substances.
Internet banging is a cultural phenomenon that has evolved from increased participation with social media; is within the context of gang violence and it reflects the idea of urban masculinity and its influence on social media behavior.


Grooming describes how people who look for sex with children or minors get close to them.
It can be in all kinds of places: home or our neighbour-hood, child’s school, sports club and so on.
The grooming can happen then in person or online. The groomer needs first find out personal information about their potential victim for example their likes and dislikes and most important their family circumstances so they will try to find a need in the child to fill.
Grooming online can be more dangerous as is faster and anonymous, and also on social media, we can be easier “friends”.
Teach your children not to give out personal information to people who you don’t know online; not to meet someone they have only been in touch online; someone online may be lying about who they are and tell always your parent, teacher or a trusted adult if someone or something makes you feel uncomfortable.

Sexting and Cyberbullying

Is sending sexually explicit messages, photos via any digital device, it includes text that discuss or propose sex acts.
Why is a problem?
A photo shared between two people can quickly become a viral phenomenon.
Bullying, harassment, and humiliation show up when the photos and messages get shared beyond the intended recipient and without the consent of the person in the photos/videos.
Some teenagers may think that “sexting online” somehow make them popular or cool, but the reality is different: it’s very crude way to get yourself sexually aroused and bulled.
Some Italian analysts of cyberbullying phenomenon argue that bullying is inevitable, is part of life: the world is divided into bullies and hypersensitive beings. The meaning of this statement could make us think that people who are bullied would be actually part of the , but it would be true even when this hypersensitive victim decides to take his own life? Read here the story of Chiara.

Revenge porn

“Consent” this is the key-word to understand what is this media violence.
“What is revenge porn?”: someone shares on the internet a pornographic image or a video without the consent of one or more of the participants with a vindictive intent.
51% of “revenge porn” victims have suicidal thoughts.
Read here the story of Tiziana. In the case of Tiziana, we were all guilty: the sex tape she was in that went viral; the video had been copied and republished thousands of times to porn sites and social media, there were songs about her, meme and gif’s and then people condemn her.
How many time we share through WhatsApp or Facebook a video of someone without his consent?
But someone says: “if she were called Tiziano” she would still be alive because men having sex do not attract the same kind of scandalised reaction.
For the social media and first of all Facebook, ‘revenge porn” remains a big issue: Facebook’s community standards explain that moderators “remove any content that threatens or promotes sexual violence”, but the victims of Facebook-based “revenge porn” are not agree.
Read here the story of Rachel. Facebook declare that it’s constantly working on improving moderation, but non-consensual pornography once out on the internet, it’s very hard to remove.
Never allow others to take your nudes or too exposed pictures; share with caution; do not send pictures or videos of yourself in the nude or in other stages of undress to anyone, even if you trust the person.

Social media gives everybody the opportunity to write their own scenarios. The way these people use social media would naturally differ from our as these scenarios are written by those having different values.
As Immanuel Kant stated: “[…] nothing good comes out of the warped wood of humanity. There will always be bad people and bad things will be committed […]”.
What is important to remember is that social media can be used to raise consciousness against violence within the context of media literacy.

Daniela Cozzolino