The angst and fury of young people has found a new, dangerous outlet on social media. From sexual harassment to menacing physical threats, platforms like Instagram and Facebook have become breeding grounds for hate speech.

“While I think that social media is amazing, it has also turned into a place where people are really dark and negative towards each other,” the 18-year-old leading lady shares. “I started using social media when I was 11, when I had just started my first show, and it was really hard to build confidence with myself.”

“The people who are bullying you are insecure themselves and are probably going through something negative in their lives.”

Numbers don’t lie

According to a recent survey by Cyberbulling Research Center, 43 percent of high school students report experiencing cyberbullying during their lifetime.

“As soon as I started posting, everyone hated on everything I shared and I was so devastated by it,” the “Modern Family” actress recalls. “It made me want to change what I looked like and the things I said.”

And it’s worse for girls. Adolescent girls are more likely to have experienced cyberbullying in their lifetime (40.6 percent compared to 28.2 percent).

“One day I realized that regardless of what I do people are going to have an opinion about me whether it be negative or positive, so I learned to be happy with myself and my choices and the way I look.”

WINTER IS COMING: Since building the confidence she had lost from online negativity, Winter is advocating for people to be transparent online, and to foster positivity and kindness in social medial interactions.


Courage counts

Today, Winter has an important message for the anonymous commentators that try to bring her down.

“You’re not going to get the satisfaction you want from me,” she cautions. “You can write something negative on my posts — you’re most likely not going to get a response. If you don’t like me, unfollow me.”

She also recommends maintaining a healthy outlook towards digital tormentors. “The people who are bullying you are insecure themselves and are probably going through something negative in their lives.”

Lending her voice

Ariel hopes that by speaking out, she can help young people who might be struggling with self-acceptance. Her advice for the screen generation?

“It’s important to be transparent on social media,” she advocates. “Be comfortable enough in your own skin to be yourself. Now I spend my time trying to teach people how to use social media positively; how to do something nice for somebody.”

She also has a wish for older generations who view the conversations that happen on social media as senseless millennial hoopla.

“The older generations look at us and thinks we’re just dreamers. I wish they could understand how passionate we are and how important the social issues that we push for are.”