#cyberbullying | #cyberbully | New cyberbullying trend: ‘Tea’ accounts used to spill gossip, harass students online

Three weeks into the school year, the Granite School District is seeing a surge in cyberbullying.

The district notified parents via Facebook, saying schools have seen a “significant rise in cyber-bullying using anonymous social media accounts.”

Ben Horsley, district spokesperson, said they’ve noticed a growing trend of students shaming their peers anonymously though Instagram.

They’ve created “tea” accounts on Instagram for individual schools.

“It’s used as a way to gossip or slander or cyberbully other students,” Horsley said.

Kymberlee Alvarenga is an eighth-grader at Evergreen Junior High School. She said she first noticed her school’s “tea” account toward the end of last school year, and it seems the trend is only growing at surrounding schools.

“They’re very toxic. Somebody anonymously makes these accounts,” Alvarenga explained.

Students message the anonymous account, spilling gossip and rumors, only to have those posts screenshot and shared with anyone who is following the account.

They create them to bully people. Usually, they create it when they don’t like someone, and they plan out these messages for one person,” Alvarenga said.

“We have an obligation to investigate these, so we do vigorously try to investigate those — often, though, we struggle to identify who is the perpetrator behind the account,” Horsley said.

Administrators in the Granite School District are taking the accounts seriously, doing everything they can to track down the creators.

“They’re anonymous accounts, and so it’s difficult oftentimes for us to trace who that is. We do have some cyber sleuths who have the ability to kind of peel back some of the layers and sometimes identify those students, but oftentimes we’re not able to,” Horsley said.

They can only get law enforcement involved to trace an IP address if there is a credible threat to student safety. Horsley said the posts haven’t been criminal, just mean.

Alvarenga said the bullying seems to be getting a little better at her school. This year, they’ve created a new account to focus on complimenting each other rather than bullying.

Let’s bring people up instead of bullying them. Let’s try to erase all of these messages,” she said.

The district is asking parents to talk to their children about these “tea” accounts.

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