What Is Digital Self-Harm and to prevent it

Mar 14, 2023

Adolescents are at an elevated risk for demonstrating both physical and psychological forms of self-harm. Perhaps a new form of self-aggression is becoming more common among this group. Using the internet or social media to broadcast derogatory or otherwise harmful content about oneself is an example of digital self-harm.

This conduct is more concerned with causing emotional distress than physical harm. It can indicate a child's mental health, whether it is being used to get attention, control emotions, or as a protection mechanism.

What Is Digital Self-Harm?

One form of self-destructive behavior recently gained attention is digital self-harm, often known as self-cyberbullying or self-trolling. It is the act of a child (or adult) cyberbullying themself through private or public online messages or posts. That includes material that is harmful to individuals, such as death threats or slurs.

Someone peering in from the outside might get confused by this. Some authorities have characterized it as bringing one's worldview into harmony with one's immediate experience. They might do it to get their parents' or friends' approval. Some people engage in self-harming behaviors online to see how much support they get from loved ones who may share their negative outlook on life. Digital self-harm has also been used as a kind of humor or a way to "beat others to the punch" among young people. However, this behavior may indicate more serious problems if it occurs for whatever reason. It comes in a variety of forms, such as:

  • Online shaming and name calling
  • constant spamming of people's inboxes
  • propagating false information
  • Harassment via fictitious accounts
  • cut off from social events
  • embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles

Why do teens self-harm online?

Based on the limited research, persons who have experienced bullying are more prone to engage in acts of digital self-harm. Also, the results suggested that having an open line of communication with one's carers or support could be a barrier to engaging in digital-self harm. Teens are less likely to participate in cyberbullying if they have adults to talk to about their difficulties. The most common motivations for such behavior among young people were to

  • A plea for assistance, especially psychotherapy,
  • Trying to discover whether their pals will stick up for them by putting them through a test
  • trying to elicit positive responses from peers to feel better about oneself.
  • Seeking to catch an adult's attention
  • Trying to determine if other people share their low image of themselves
  • Self-harm as a means of protecting against cyberbullying
  • Employing it as a form of self-flagellation because of feelings of shame
  • Trying to gain some self-assurance

What can be done to prevent or end online self-harm?

You can do several things if you suspect your child or someone you know is sharing self-harm content online to stop it and get them the treatment they need. It is possible to:

  • Prevent them from hurting themselves by shutting off the bogus or anonymous account they're using.
  • If your child is under 13, you must keep tabs on what sites and streaming services they access online. You can restrict their time on the internet or a specific device with one of the many monitoring applications available.
  • Send an alert or request that the social media or website remove the content.
  • Gather evidence and raise red flags with parents, teachers, or other adults in charge.
  • Provide access to professional mental health services like therapy and counseling.
  • Create an environment where they feel comfortable talking about it and then discussing it.
  • Make it easier to report bullying and other forms of mistreatment to school authorities to stop the downward spiral into more severe acts of self-harm.
  • Help your child learn how to get mental and physical health services online and in the community.

Is your child bullying themselves? What can you do about it?

Do not panic: Your kid needs to feel they can talk to you and get a reasonable, considerate, and helpful response.

Take practical steps to limit time online: Remove or disable any fictitious accounts your adolescent may be utilizing for online suicide attempts. Reduce your teen's exposure to online social networks. For convenience, it may be a good idea to install a charging station in the main living area, as this is when most teenagers will be using their phones to check their social media accounts.

Everyone can charge their devices before turning them in for the night. If you have younger kids worried they might be exposed to harmful material online, a monitoring app might help you keep tabs on what they're doing.

Take stock of the situation and see how it stacks up. Before deciding what to do, it's vital to understand the situation completely. Is it just a few flippant words, or is there more to it?

You should know the impact on your kid: Help your child feel better by reassuring them that you understand and their feelings are valid.

Don't remove the technology: If you remove your child's access to a computer or mobile phone, they may feel cut off from their most crucial source of social support: their friends.


Understanding the causes, symptoms, and solutions to self-harming behavior online is crucial in today's hyper-connected society. With the prevalence of social media and the possible link between suicidal behavior and self-harming tendencies, it's crucial to take online self-harm as seriously as other types. Please know that assistance and support are available if you or someone you know is hurting themselves or themselves by using technology.