Digital Self Harm

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Digital Self Cyberbullying

More teenagers may be engaging in digital self-harm -- the practice of anonymously posting negative comments about themselves online. In a survey published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, about 6% of students said they have cyberbullied themselves.

Why is this happening? Some kids, who feared they would be bullied by other kids anyway, felt it was better to beat others to the punch or even possibly deflect the bullying since it would appear that some one else had bullied them first. Others could just be looking for attention from either adults or their peers - wanting to see who would worry about them or stick up for them, or even to show how tough they are. No matter what the cause, it is a trend parents need to be aware of and schools counselors will need to figure out how to contend with.

Cyberbullying’s Latest Trend: Self Inflicted

Nearly 6% of US teens said they bullied themselves online, according to a study done by the Florida Atlantic University's Cyberbullying Research Center. The findings, based on a national survey of about 5,600 students ages 12 to 17, showed that boys were more likely to report digital self-harm. Additionally, the risk of digital self-harm was three times higher among non-heterosexual youths and 12 times higher among those who were already or had been cyberbullying victims. Those who engaged in self-inflicted cyberbullying offered explanations including self-hate, attention, wanting to appear victimized to justify cyberbullying others, feeling depressed or suicidal, trying to be funny or make fun of themselves, and boredom. 

Researchers are calling this behavior "digital self-harm” and the trend was brought to researchers' attention by the death of Hannah Smith, a 14 year old from Leicestershire, England, who hanged herself after months of apparent online harassment. After her death, officials from Ask.fm, a social media site where users can ask each other anonymous questions, found that 98% of the messages sent to Smith came from the same IP address as the computer she used. Many other sites like Tumblr and the now defunct Formspring also have had an anonymous question feature, which could allow teens to anonymously send themselves hurtful messages and then publicly respond.