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How kids use Google Docs for secret bullying

Google’s online word processing tool is being used by kids to bully other children in secret, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Google Docs is seen as a Microsoft Word alternative, which leads many parents to believe that the productivity suite is solely used for work. Who would use Word for anything other than document creation and writing? Just maybe: children who are blocked from social media platforms.

Connected education has come a long way, especially when one considers online tools like Google Docs. These web apps have become a go-to tool for schools, due to strong collaboration features, powerful sharing tools, and an instant cloud autosave feature. They also integrate with classroom management services like Google Classroom and Moodle.

While these tools are convenient, collaboration opens itself up to misuse. The parental control app Bark has lifted the lid on how children are using Google Docs as an informal social network.

Confused? Here’s how it compares to Facebook:

Chatting 

When a shared Google Doc is open, it acts like a blank piece of paper for multiple pens. As a user writes in the document, other users see that text on their screens in real time. This makes it a shared Google Doc that can be shared with tens or hundreds of people, all in effect writing in a text chat. Alternatively, the Doc can be shared with one other person to make a two-way private chat.

Why do children do this?

Schools tend to block social media platforms with a firewall and they intend Google Docs to be used for work. It also acts as a good chat disguise for students. One child reported that he had an old history paper which he converted into a chat room, so when his parents checked on him, he just had to scroll up from the chat page.

Bullying

Where there’s group chatting, there’s group bullying. Bark reports it has seen more than 60,000 cases of kids ganging up on other children in Google Docs. These kids work together to write hurtful things in a shared Google Doc of which the victim is a part. In other cases, kids create lists or “burn books” and exclude the victim.

Click here to find out how bullying doesn’t stop at text messages, why this is happening, and what parents can do to make sure that their children are safe from bullying.

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