Cyber Self-harm - Methods and Motives

SmartPhoneAs I write articles for E-safety Support, I occasionally think that I’ve come across everything now, that nothing can really shock me or sadden me, but then I will read an article in the press or somewhere online and realise that this is not the case and that as long as there is the internet, there will almost always be something out there that is truly more bizarre, more sad or more sickening than what I read previously.

This is what I felt when I read about how some young people are actually going online and posting hurtful or abusive messages to themselves in the newest example of psychological self-harm. I have read countless articles about the increase in internet ‘trolling’ to the point that you can believe that at any one time, somewhere on the web, someone is receiving threats or being cyber-bullied in some way, most probably, by someone they have never met, but now it would appear that some people are actually doing this to themselves.

A study carried out by the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Centre (MARC) discovered that out of 617 young people that were interviewed, 9% had actually cyber-bullied themselves online.

There are various ways that teens ‘troll’ themselves. One method is to set up numerous profiles and send multiple abusive messages to themselves, things like “You are fat”, “Nobody likes you”, God, you’re ugly”, etc.

But why would they do that?

Psychologists who have studied this area say that young people with low self-esteem do this so that the comments posted by the “other people” (even when it is themselves sending the abuse from pseudo-profiles) offers confirmation of their own poor opinion of themselves.

Another way of inflicting self-harm is to use the different forums or social media sites to post open questions about themselves inviting strangers to answer questions such as “Am I attractive”, ”Am I slim” or “Is my hair nice”, etc. Any negative responses that come back reinforce those feelings of lack of self-worth.

Rachel Welch, who is the director of a self-harming charity, says that although cyber self-harming does not leave physical wounds, it should still ring emotional warning bells.

“Self-harm like cutting yourself, is a physical response to emotional pain, it distracts the person from that pain. Cyber self-harm is replacing emotional pain with another form of emotional pain. This negative emotional reinforcement is extremely worrying. Self-harming behaviours can change rapidly and escalate.”

It is often a desperate feeling of shame that causes someone to cyber self-harm and they typically find it hard to reach out and ask for help. What can help is for a young person who is, or thinking of, cyber self-harming, to talk to someone who doesn’t know them personally such as a qualified counsellor or ‘nominated adult’ at school. They will help them understand the reasons why they are doing such things to themselves without judging them and help them to nurture better feelings and emotions about themselves.

For further information about self harm, visit stepup-international.co.uk where there is support for professionals and parents to help deal with this issue.

Written by Steve Gresty on July 09, 2014 10:29


Comments

Join E-safety Support

  • Protect your pupils
  • Support your teachers
  • Deliver outstanding practice

Recent Stories
Story Tags
addiction anti_bullying_alliance anti-radicalisation apps ask.fm assembly avatars awards bett Breck_Foundation bug bullying BYOD calendar cber_bullying censorship ceop checklist child child_exploitation childline childnet child_protection childwise ClassDojo classroom competition cookies CPD creepshot CSE curriculum cyberbullying cyber_bullying cyber_crime cybersmile_foundation cybersurvey development devices DfE digital_citizenship digital_footprint digital_forensics digital_leaders digital_literacy digital_native digital_reputation digital_wellbeing eCadets education e-learning emoticon e-safe esafety e-safety e-safety, e-safety_support #esscomp #esstips ethics exa exploitation extreemism extremism extremism, facebook fantastict fapchat FAPZ film filtering freemium friendly_wifi gaming #GetSafeOnline glossary GoBubble gogadgetfree google governor grooming #GSODay2016 guidance hacker hacking icon information innovation inspection instragram internet internet_matters internet_of_things internet_safety into_film ipad iphone ipod irights IWF language leetspeak lesson like linkedin malware mental_health mobile monitor monitoring naace navigation neknominate netiquette network news NHCAW nomophobia nspcc NWG ofcom offline ofsted omegle online online_safety oracle parents phone Point2Protect policy pornography power_for_good pressure PREVENT primary privacy professional_development protection PSHE #pupilvoiceweek ratting rdi reporting research risk robots safeguarding safer_internet_day safety SCD2015 #SCD2016 school sdfsdf security self-harm selfie sexting sextortion ShareAware sid SID SID2016 SID2017 smartphone snapchat snappening social_media social_media, social_networking staff staff_training #standuptobullying statutory_guidance Stop_CSE stop_cyberbullying_day stress students survey swgfl SWGfL tablet teach teachers technology texting tootoot training TrainingToolz troll trolling twitter UKCCIS uk_safer_internet_centre UK_youth unplug2015 virus webinar website we_protect what_is_e-safety wifi wi-fi windows wizard yik_yak young_people youthworks youtube YPSI
Archive