Digital self-harm among teens: an alarming new development

A disturbing new phenomenon called ‘digital self-harm’ is slowly on the rise. Although there is not much research on the topic as yet, there have been some recent studies. The results are surprising. A study in 2016 of close to 6,000 students in the USA between the ages of 12 and 17 showed that approximately 6% of the students participated in digital self-harm. ie- anonymously posting or sharing content of themselves that would be deemed abusive or hurtful).

In other studies, information from police investigations also found many instances of digital self-harm included suggestions of committing suicide. 9% of a group of young adults admitted to participating in the act of DSH in highschool in a 2011 study of college students.

While not all acts of DSH are definite signs of depression and suicidal thoughts, it is important for more information on this subject to be made available. Some DHS is committed to get attention and fish for specific responses. Other acts of DHS are committed simply as a joke. It is important for parents and police alike to understand and consider the possibility of DHS in instances of cyberbullying – but not for the purposes of dismissing the acts as trivial, but to determine whether or not they are cries for help, as is the case in other more traditional forms of self-harm.


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