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YouTube and Instagram Stars Explain How to Protect Your Kids from Online Bullying

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Even the most popular kids online deal with cyberbullying.

“99.9 percent of all the comments are so nice and so empowering and motivating and supportive [but] there’s that, like, one, tiny, like, .01 percent that are just, like, so angry at their life that they want to hate on you,” YouTube star Lauren Riihimaki (a.k.a. LaurDIY) said on the INSTANT Interview Stage at Vidcon Friday.

But the digital creator — whose YouTube channel has 5.8 million subcribers — revealed there are ways to protect yourself and the people you love from the hate.

Comment Filters

“You can block certain words,” Riihimaki said of custom filters available on YouTube and Instagram that block comments with words you deem inappropriate. “It filters them out so I don’t have to see it. So people are, like, ‘fat,’ ‘ugly,’ ‘pimples.’ … You can just filter all that out and I don’t have to see it so I can pretend that they’re aren’t haters.”

Though the filters are not a foolproof method.

“I’ve heard from lots of people that people find their way around it by misspelling things,” YouTuber Hannah Witton said on the “End Cyberbullying” panel at Vidcon on Saturday.

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Blocking, Muting and Unfollowing the Haters

“Mute don’t block,” Steven Jay Williams (known to his 4 million YouTube followers as Boogie2988) said on the panel with Witton. “Muting on Twitter or YouTube will not inform the person from the community. If you block them, they know and they can create a new account or find another way to get back into the community. But if you mute them, then they will just be screaming into the void. Some people look at a block as a badge of honor.”

“The mute button is incredible,” added Meghan Tonjones. “I used to have to unfollow people and actually deal with the backlash and now I can just mute them.”

But some people get satisfaction out of unfollowing or blocking rather than just muting, which could still allow others to see that persons comments even if they’re hidden for you.

“If you block someone, then, technically, if they’re signed in they can’t see your feed anymore and that might be a really important thing for some people,” said Anita Sarkeesian, founder of Feminist Frequency. “Sometimes I think it’s valuable — it’s almost a symbolic act — to say, ‘You are disruptive to my space and not allowed in here.’ ”

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Ignoring the Hate

“I reward positive comments by engaging them,” Witton said of not responding to the nasty comments she receives.

“I think we are bothered by it … it can often result in an amplification and I think it’s one of the biggest mistakes we make,” Williams added of refusing to engage in a back-and-forth with the people who leave him death threats. “Two wrongs never make a right. I think it eventually digs you into a hole that you may never be able to get out of if you respond negatively.”

“The best thing you can do is fill that community with positivity,” he continued. “I choose to celebrate positivity and the beautiful stuff instead.”

But however you choose to deal with cyberbullying, Sarkeesian urged those who are watching it happen to others to consider how the person the hate is directed towards is handling the situation.

“Sometimes you might make it worse by saying something … so the advice that I give is follow what the person targeted is doing,” she said. “If they are speaking up about it and are being vocal about it then you can amplify their voice… but sometimes people don’t want their voice amplified.”