Neptune Navigate Blog

Tips for online safety, security, and responsible digital citizenship for parents, kids, and families.

Self-Harm In The Digital World

April 15, 2021

Bullying has been around since the beginning of time.  Cyberbullying isn’t new either.  And unfortunately, most of us know at least one person who has committed some form of self-harm for whatever reason.

But now we have “digital self-harm” or “self-cyberbullying.”  And though it seems crazy to most of us, it isn’t crazy to the person doing it.

Digital self-harm occurs when a person creates fake social media accounts in order to post mean and degrading comments about themselves.  And because it doesn’t leave physical marks or scars,  it’s much more difficult to detect.

In a study conducted in 2019 of 10,000 middle and high school students in Florida, it was found that 10% of the students had bullied themselves online.  While the reasons will vary, some of the most common causes for self-cyberbullying are attention, a way to cope with distress, or because the person has been bullied and has come to believe the negative comments that others have said about them.  Others admit they have bullied themselves online to “test their friends” and find out what their peers really think about them.

Jack Turban, a fellow in adolescent and child psychiatry at Stanford University states that kids who have been marginalized are usually more likely to take part in this phenomenon.  One step parents can take in order to help prevent and/or identify self-harm in their kids is to have access to all of their accounts.  But beware, kids are tech savvy and can create multiple fake accounts before you even realize it.

The best course of action for parents is to have open and honest conversations with their children.  Nothing can replace on-going, honest dialogue between parents and kids.  After digging deeper into why the child made the posts, parents can then determine their next steps.  Maybe all the child needs to start their healing process is the dialogue with parents.  Communication to remind them they are loved and have worth.  Maybe they need help from a professional.  A pediatrician or a school counselor can recommend a trusted therapist to help both the child and the parent.

There is no “one size fits all” solution to this situation, but the main thing is for parents to be alert, have open, relaxed conversations with their children, and not be afraid or embarrassed to seek help from a professional.