What is Fraping?
Teenagers’ online lives can be complicated, and activities such as fraping can be more harmful than adults realize. Fraping is often a form of cyberbullying that can harm a child socially, emotionally, and even physically. If a child you love might be the victim of fraping, help is available.
If you have a preteen or teenager, or you spend time around this age group, you’ve probably heard dozens of social media slang terms. Fraping is likely one of those terms. But what is fraping, and is it a problem for a child you care about? Here’s what you should know.
What Is Fraping?
Fraping is internet slang for taking control of someone’s social media account and changing it or posting without their consent. The term combines “Facebook” and “rape” — frape.
Despite the inclusion of the term “rape,” fraping isn’t a sexual crime. Someone can frape someone else by posting sexual messages to their account, but it’s still fraping if nothing sexual is involved.
Fraping has been a term in internet culture — and on Urban Dictionary — for over a decade. The way people frape has evolved with the changing social media landscape. For instance, with Facebook’s popularity rapidly dropping among teens, today’s fraping is more likely to happen on Instagram or Snapchat.
Fraping can range in severity from a “harmless” prank to a seriously damaging malicious act.
Who Participates in Fraping?
Fraping is popular among teens and young adults on social media. In a 2016 survey that included young adults, most admitted to fraping and being fraped. According to one 18-year-old respondent:
…one of my flatmates is so bad, leaves Facebook open and I just can’t not (frape). But it is never anything shocking.
But not all fraping is so harmless. Sometimes, it crosses the line into cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying happens when someone deliberately inflicts harm via an electronic device or online platform. Fraping is one of the many types of cyberbullying involving social media.
Social media is a common outlet for cyberbullying, and fraping is one of many techniques.
People frape for multiple reasons — to prank their friends, exact social revenge, or affect someone’s social standing, for example.
Examples of Fraping
When fraping is done without malicious intent, friends take over each other’s accounts with obviously fake and amusing messages or account changes. Examples include:
- Changing the person’s name to something funny and obviously fake
- Giving them a fake school or job
- Trolling their page by liking or following random accounts, so they find their feed flooded with irrelevant posts
- Disclosing something funny or embarrassing the victim did: Me at 9 pm last night: “I’m not getting drunk tonight.” Me at 2 am: “I love you, telephone pole.”
- Posting amusingly out of character: @NickC231 was right…anime is dumb.
Other fraping incidents are less obvious and more hurtful. These frapes try harder to mimic and misrepresent the account owner, usually with the intent to spread rumors or otherwise hurt the person’s reputation.
For instance, a malicious fraper might:
- Send a classmate or crush a fake confession of love or attraction.
- Post ethnic slurs or racist comments to get the account owner in trouble.
- “Confess” to something illegal or against the rules on the account owner’s behalf.
- Post mean or hurtful comments, also to attract consequences.
- Make private information publicly available: Confession time: I wet the bed until I was 14.
- Interfere with the account owner’s love life or friendships for “entertainment”: @Jason626 I still love you let’s get back together.
- Change the person’s contact information so that they miss important messages.
These fraping incidents can severely damage the victim’s reputation and well-being.
Fraping and Social Identity: Why it Hurts
Young people’s social media accounts play a significant role in how they present themselves to their peer groups. They disclose a person’s understanding of social norms and give clues as to who their friends and love interests are.
Teens also use the online environment to seek validation from peers. Likes and positive comments indicate approval. Negative comments or dislikes can hurt a person’s social standing.
Fraping is hurtful because it takes control of someone’s social presence. Followers see an inappropriate or embarrassing comment and assume it came from the account owner, meaning they believe that person violated social norms.
Especially among adolescents, this can do severe and lasting social damage.
Effects of Fraping on Victims
It can be difficult for adults to monitor fraping, given the varying social norms surrounding it. Some young friend groups find mild fraping acceptable as long as the content isn’t damaging and the joke is obvious.
One participant from that 2016 study referenced earlier described a “quite funny” fraping incident when her friends posted something she said while intoxicated. The young woman left it up on her page.
In that case, the fraping post wasn’t damaging, and the “victim” was entertained rather than upset. But that’s not always the case.
When fraping becomes bullying, it shares the characteristic effects of cyberbullying. For teens, that may include:
- Feeling emotional distress, including embarrassment, sadness, worry, and anger
- Having trouble concentrating in class
- Refusing to go to school or extracurriculars
- Being suddenly left out of social activities
- Not wanting to talk about friends or peers
- Fearing socializing due to a growing lack of trust
- Experiencing physical symptoms, for example, headaches or stomach pain
If cyberbullying persists, the victim can experience serious psychological consequences, including anxiety, depression, and even self-harm or suicidal thoughts.
Parents and teachers must closely monitor children and teens who may be experiencing fraping or other forms of cyberbullying. Even before you know exactly what the bullying pattern involves, you can provide emotional and mental support for your child.
Is My Child Being Fraped?
It can be challenging to identify if someone is fraping your child. One difficulty is that it isn’t always malicious, and teens don’t always tell someone when it crosses the line.
If you suspect your child is the victim of fraping, watch for signs of cyberbullying and take any reports seriously. If your teen or student tells you someone is fraping them, even if they use different words, assume the situation is serious — perhaps more serious than they admit.
Victims need to know fraping can be severely harmful and that there are pathways to justice.
Consequences of Fraping
As adults have learned more about the effects of cyberbullying, a movement has developed to hold bullies accountable.
As the Cyberbullying Research Center has reported, most states include electronic bullying in their criminal harassment and stalking statutes. Forty-nine of the 50 states require schools to become involved if a child is the victim of bullying.
So far, however, there has been minimal coverage of legal action related to fraping. One exception was a 2011 fraping incident in Ireland, which made worldwide news when a man in Ireland admitted to posting a sexually offensive update on a former girlfriend’s Facebook page.
The man, aged 30 at the time, admitted he had made the false post. He had found evidence of his ex-girlfriend’s new relationship and posted it on her account in retaliation.
The court charged him under the Criminal Damage Act, marking the first criminal prosecution related to a social media account. The court imposed a €2,000 penalty.
Although the man was well over the age of majority and not in a U.S. jurisdiction, the incident sets some precedent for legal action against frapers.
How To Deal With Fraping
If you or someone you care about is the victim of fraping, gather as much evidence as possible. Take screenshots of the malicious post or account alteration.
Keep mobile phones and laptops inaccessible to others. Block any people or accounts who have sent unwelcome messages or made unwelcome comments.
You can also report cyberbullying incidents to the social media platform where they happened. The platform may not take action, but the documentation will be helpful.
Finally, seek help for any emotional, mental, or physical distress you or your child may feel. Your overall well-being is the top priority. If you’re comfortable talking about the event to others, you may seek a cyberbullying support group.
If you are a parent, talk to your teen about fraping. Remind them they have your unwavering support and help them find any needed resources.
The Social Media Victims Law Center is here to help you support your child. Contact us for a free consultation.
Matthew P. Bergman
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