In time past teens battling with the control of their emotions might have handled it with through tantrums, ingesting drugs, alcohol, smoking, wild life or even suicide. In this day teenagers have added to that list another outlet called Digital Self Harm. This Digital Self Harm can be explained as the act of posting or sharing of demeaning information about oneself anonymously online. It is most times an effort to validate their insecurities in a public space.
A study in the United States Of America has found that 6% of teens between the ages of 12 to 17 years engage in “Digital Self Harm” anonymously posting or sharing demeaning things about themselves online. Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire and the study’s lead author Justin Patchin told Business insider “I was surprised that the numbers were as high as they were,”
A piling body of evidence shows that smart phones are the driving force in reducing the mental health among teenagers. The teenage suicide rate has eclipsed homicidal rates and some Psychologists say it is largely because of the lonliness and anxiety produced by digital technology.
Dr. Danah Boyd a researcher on Digital Self Harm and author of”It’s Complicated: The Social Lives Of Networked Teens” said “I don’t think it dawned on anyone that teens would leverage anonymity in this way, it tends to startle anyone I tell about it”
Researchers like Boyd (who was not involved in the latest study) have found that digital self-harm offers teens a chance to safely get attention from friends and publicize the negative feelings they’ve been keeping in their heads. The act can serve as a kind of purge — expunging bad self-impressions, either about appearance or personality and can validate a young person’s insecurities.
“The ubiquity of social media and the way in which youth present and represent themselves in order to obtain attention, validation, and feedback from an audience,” the authors wrote, “may enhance the likelihood they choose online spaces as the preferred venue through which they can affect and reach others.”
A 15-year-old named Ellie (not her real name) told the BBC a similar story in 2013.” The posts would say I was ugly, I was useless, I wasn’t loved … all the stuff in my head,” Ellie said. “If I saw it in black and white coming from ‘other people’ I knew it must be true.”
The latest study is the largest to offer a picture of digital self-harm’s prevalence in the US. A representative sample of 5,593 middle and high school students were surveyed about their online behavior, with 7.1% of males and 5.3% of females saying they cyberbullied themselves.
The prior survey, by the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center, issued in 2013 found roughly 9% of teens engaged in in the practice.
These rates mirror those of traditional forms of self-harm, known more formally as “nonsuicidal self-injury,” or NSSI. A study published in 2012 showed that 8% of the 665 youths who were surveyed said they engaged in a form of NSSI either through cutting, burning, or hitting. The survey also showed a wider variation among genders, however than the latest study on digital self-harm: While 19% of ninth-grade girls reported some form, only 5% of ninth-grade boys did.
Researchers also discovered that the recent study showed that those who engaged in traditional self harm are three times more likely to digitally self harm.
The Co- Authors wrote that “The team also conceded it couldn’t parse out every specific reason for digital self-harm. It could be the case that some portion of teens self-cyberbully because they enjoy a misguided pleasure in deceiving others,”. The research group also called for more support from celebrities and activists who are in the campaign against Digital Self-harm such as To Write Love on Her Arms and the It Gets Better project.
The Co-Authors wrote “We believe these efforts should be redoubled by other far-reaching entities,”, “especially given the powerful and unparalleled influence that digital content and communications have on this population.”