I recently read an article that I found disturbing… It is titled Why Teenagers are ‘Self-trolling’ on websites like Reddit by Tanith Carey. This brought up the online conundrum of teens who are utilizing social outlets to cyber self-harm. Cyber self-harming is when someone creates another account from which they can bully a berate themselves. This shocked me, and raised a number of questions, but the main one is: Why on earth would anyone want to bully themselves?
Photo Credit: vvdukov
I thought immediately of my kids when I read this article and it scared me. I have to say that when I was a teen I had a small community of friends. Technology was being utilized by my peers in the form of ICQ, MSN Messenger, and a couple others that escape me. I remember one in particular that I was apart of and would go on where you would post comments in a community with your “friends”. There were a number of different teens in the group so I thought it would be a neat and different experience to partake in. I posted a couple of times and immediately had posts that were slanderous and demeaning towards me…It made me feel unsettled because most of the comments came from screen names that I did not know, but knew it was someone I went to school with. Needless to say I had the mental strength to make the decision to never return to a space that was filled with people who were trying to break me down. I can only hope that my kids will have the strength to separate themselves from online negativity like that.
What is difficult to understand for me is why teens are posting negative things about themselves, to themselves from another username. The only real answer I can come up with is that they are trying to see who their “real” friends are or they are trying to find out if anyone else can see something good in them that they can’t see in themselves…
I know that, as a parent, I will always try to monitor my children’s online identities and have a dialogue about positive digital citizenship with them. But there is only so much I can do as a parent without suffocating their online independence. I will just have to trust that they will be comfortable talking with me about low self-esteem if they ever feel that way.
The article also brings up the issue of teens and pre-teens posting pictures of themselves to be roasted. This is an outlet that has been glorified by comedians and celebrities that is an unhealthy practice for anyone to be a part of. Being a teenager is a delicate time in many peoples lives and, for some of us, it was when we were the most fragile. We did things without really thinking about what the consequences might be and in an instance like this they can be harmful emotionally and mentally. “Sticks and stones may break my bones but word will never hurt me.” In some cases with teens words can be daggers and we need to educate these vulnerable voices of the future to really think about what they are posting on the internet and how it may affect them a day, week, month, or year down the road.
Normally I would have a humorous take on a reading each week. When I read this I felt uneasy, uncomfortable and sad. All I could think about were my two kids and how these things could easily happen to them….We need to start talking about POSITIVE digital citizenship at home and in our schools. We will not be able to help everyone but we can certainly try and it will help clean up the litter that is being posted on the web.
I managed to find another great cyber self-harm article Written by Denise Winterman that had some great quotes in it! You can access it here.