Are social media websites making self-harm amongst teens worse?

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2038-sadness-tears-crying-eyeSocial media websites could be responsible for making self-harm amongst teenagers worse, experts believe. Jamison Monroe Jr, an executive director of Newport Academy, says that there has been an increase in the number of teenagers self-harming.

“Over the last five years I’ve noticed the volume of the practice has been consistent – if not increasing,” he says.

Despite social media websites attempting to reduce the amount of offensive or graphic images posted online, many teenagers still manage to find images of self-harm on websites such as Tumblr and Instagram.

Monroe believes that teenagers seek out such images in order to make themselves feel normal.

“They are seeking a connection to normalise the behaviour, to make them feel ok about the way they are coping,” he says. “The fact that they are cutting means they need help.”

In recent months, there have been many cases of teens posting disturbing content online. This includes dangerous trends such as beauty challenges and “thinspiration” posts that have led to many teens being seriously injured and requiring treatment.

Monroe voiced his concerns about social media trends, stating that teens often copy the behaviour of others on social networking websites.

“They found out about [cutting] first through social media, or they heard about it somewhere else and seeing it on social media made it ok to them,” he says.

Another concern is that many internet users can easily locate instructions online on how to hurt themselves. Despite social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter stating that self-harm posts are not allowed, they do not take action until after an image has been posted. It is left to users to report offensive or graphic images.

Many teens are able to locate disturbing content, with some even making up their own hashtags.

Jamie Howard, a clinical psychologist, says that her patients have commented on how some websites include instructions on how to self-harm and that teens can work with the internet to locate disturbing content.

“They were born with the internet and it’s intuitive to them and they work with it so quickly,” she says.

She believes that the internet has normalised behaviour such as self-harm.

“It’s a logical extension that the internet would exacerbate the problem,” she says.


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