05.13.14

Digital Self-Harm – A Cry for Help   by HomeWord.com

Digital Self-Harm. Don’t be surprised if you’ve never heard this phrase before. It’s a

recently identified condition. It’s not a particularly widespread phenomenon but one,

nevertheless, that is serious and worth understanding.

We are likely aware of the seriousness of bullying and particularly of cyber-bullying these

days. Online cruelty, put-downs, and threats are the arena for cyber-bullying and we are

aware of the ease at which social media can spread the messages far and wide.

You may have seen horror stories of kids who have been mercilessly bullied via social

media and of tragedies when some kids have chosen to end their own lives as a result.

Media outlets often flock to these types of stories and it’s not uncommon for these to

attack technology as the culprit.

But, what if it actually turns out that the teen is the originator of her or his cyber-bullying?

This is what is known as Digital Self-Harm. It happens more than you might realize.

In 2012, the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center published a report about digital

self-harm. Part of the research included a survey of 617 students on the prevalence of

self-cyber-bullying among them. Ten percent of the students reported they had digitally

self-harmed.

But why would a teenager engage in digital self-harm? Given the recent identification of the behavior, more research is needed to accurately determine the motivation behind digital self-harm. Yet it seems reasonable to surmise that digital self-harm is at least somewhat akin to physical self-harm: A means to respond to the emotional pain a teen is suffering in his or her life and often – a cry for help. Teens might digitally self-harm…

• as an expression of one’s poor self-image.

• as a means to assess how others’ view her or him.

• as a means to assess whether peers will defend her or him when cruel or threatening

posts appear.

What Parents Can Do…

• Above all, if your child has told you that he or she is being bullied via social media, don’t

hesitate to initiate a thorough investigation. Attempt to identify the origin of the

cyber-bullying.

• If you find that your child has self-harmed digitally, see it as your child’s cry for help and

take immediate steps to help.

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