May 26, 2021
Is Social Media Contributing to Rising Teen Suicide Rate?
Social networking sites have brought a significant difference in the means of communication. It has brought a great change in how we humans connect. Social media has changed the way we communicate and has been a great contribution to human society. People have been also noticing that with the growth in social media, the growth in the number of mental health issues and suicide. The correlation between these two factors has been a question, especially in children and teenagers.
According to Common Sense Media, teenagers are spending around 9 hours a day on their screens. With suicide being the second most leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 to 24, people are wondering if there have not been enough efforts to prevent suicide caused by online reasons.
According to the CDC, suicide rates have doubled among girls aged 15 to 19 years. This data was in comparison from 2007 to 2015. They also showed that more teenage girls were likely to self-harm and commit suicide than teenage boys.
There also has been an increase in the number of children suffering from depression. From 2009 to 2017, the rate has increased by 60%. 12.5% of youngsters from 12 to 25 are found to have suffered from severe forms of depression in the US.
Another research in the UK showed that there had been a significant increase in self-harm in teenage girls. There was an increase of 68% in self-harm of teenagers between the age of 13 to 16.
These teenagers and youngsters who are at such a young age are said to be in serious psychological distress. There are cases of teens attempting suicide after being bullied. Most of the time both bully and victim are affected. They are said to feel sad, hopeless, and nervous. They also have suicidal plans and attempts.
These data show us that teen suicide is not a problem in just one country in the world. The growing amount of concern for mental health has been a step in the right direction. It has brought awareness to the current problem of the increase in teen suicides and suicide attempts.
In this case, we have to ask ourselves how social media impacts our teenagers. Is there a relation between the two? Does social media pose a risk or benefit to us? How do we recognize signs of depression and suicide? Is social media really causing growth in teenage suicide rates?
We will guide you through all of these questions!
Impact of Social Media on Mental Health of Teens
Social media has changed the way used to functions. It has inherently changed our lifestyle, now whatever we do is mostly for social media. There is probably not a single day where you do not go through any of your social media. You can see everyone is obsessed with at least one of the social media; parents are creating their children social media from the day they are born. You can use software safety guides to protect your kid from the negative impact of the internet.
Having to make constant updates of what you are doing, where you are, and what you are eating can be quite pressurizing. This excessive use of social media among people especially teenagers has to lead them to depression. It has also been a concern for rising mental health issues.
Negative Aspects of Social Media
Besides that, social media does have a relationship with mental health issues. It has been linked to stress, anxiety, depression, and other issues. It has also been linked to loss of sleep or poor sleep.
It has also been linked to encouraging unhealthy behaviors in teenagers. They make comparisons between themselves and what they see online. They compare themselves with edited models and influencers.
They compare their appearance, wealth, and lifestyles to other people. These teenagers do not realize that the people they are envying are putting the best versions of themselves out. They might be faking their social media presence. This builds an unhealthy standard for teenagers for what they aspire to be. They want to pursue a fake standard of perfection.
When these teenagers don’t achieve what they had considered an inspiration, they fall apart. They lose their self-esteem and self-confidence. It manifests into other forms of mental health issues and eating disorders.
Social media and other such applications have also been blamed to be addictive. They are said to be more addictive than other substances like nicotine and alcohol.
While there are negative effects of social media, it also makes you responsible for its use by your children. Researchers say that the longer use of social media might heighten the risk of mental health-related issues. But they fail to quantify the amount of time spent on social media.
Since they cannot quantify the time, it has also been a positive coping mechanism for children. Social media has been used by teenagers for positive use. 31% of teenagers report that they have received positive boosts to their mental health through the use of social media.
Teenagers have reported that social media has been a great means of communication. They are able to connect to peers of similar interests. Teenagers have been able to better express their sexuality and identity.
Through social media, teens have found their interests and hobbies. They have learned about opportunities and found success in their endeavors because of social media. Social media is providing them to be a creative outlet to remove their tensions and frustrations.
Though we have plenty of grievances towards social media, it has been the most blamed factor for teen suicides. Even though social media may have a part to play, we take it easy to blame something without understanding our contribution to it. It is a tempting prospect to blame social media for the poor mental health of your child.
When blaming something else, we fail to recognize that we may have done something to prevent it. We must exercise control over the use of social media and teach our children about a healthy balance. We have to see it in ourselves to have frank and open conversations about the risks.
Social Media and Suicide Risks
Social media has led to many problems. These issues pose a risk to many mental health issues such as suicide. Excessive use of social media can cause the following problems which eventually leads teens towards suicidal thought:
Cyberbullying is online bullying that happens through online and digital mediums. Cyberbullying can occur through gadgets such as mobile phones, desktops, and social networking sites.
The bully in cyberbullying tortures the victim by spreading harmful or flawed posts, comments, or rumors. They can also send out private pictures or videos of the victim to humiliate them. This could also include spreading private information about the victim.
A study showed that 33.8% of teenagers have reported being cyberbullied. It also showed that 56% of teenagers have witnessed cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying has been linked to a number of other mental health issues. Cyberbullying, sextortion, and pornography are the main reasons for teen anxiety. They include sleeplessness, self-harm, anxiety, depression, and suicide. Teenagers who are cyberbullied also have poor academic performance and are more prone to dropping out of school or college. Cyberbullying has led to the deaths of many youngsters.
An example can be the death of Tyler Clementi in the year 2010. He committed suicide after his private videos were posted on social media. He was a young college student.
It has also led to the formation of a new term “Cyberbullicide” which refers to suicide caused due to cyberbullying.
● Body Image Issues
Body image issues are the negative feelings and attitudes related to appearance. It can be related to facial appearance, complexion, weight, figure, height, or other factors.
Individuals tend to set ideals for body images. They are often influenced by cultural norms. They are also influenced by our community, peers, and surroundings. But the rise of social media has also brought ideals for body images.
Often the models or influencers set ideal standards for body image in the mind of teenagers. Teenagers don’t tend to realize that some of these images are altered. They compare themselves to unachievable standards. They feel inadequate when they cannot meet their own expectations.
This distortion of body image in the minds of teenagers has often led to mental health issues. Also, during teenage, teenagers body changes and they feel ashamed of their bodies. This is an issue that is said to have affected more females than male social media users. This has also been linked to loss of self-confidence and bulimia. Body image issues have led teenagers to depression and suicidal thoughts.
● Suicide pacts
Suicidal pacts refer to an arrangement between people to die from suicide together at the same time. Suicide pacts are rare but they have grown in online mediums. Conventionally they are formed among people who recognize each other, mostly a group of friends or partners.
Suicide pacts that are generated in ways via the usage of an Internet connection are known as cyber suicide pacts. People are known to make cyber suicide pacts with people they might not recognize, unlike conventional suicide pacts.
They use different platforms on social media to form suicide pacts. They plan on committing suicide at a particular time. They try to end their lives with other people virtually. Even though these suicide pacts are rare, they are still something to look out for.
Social Media and Suicide Prevention
The utilization of social media for suicide prevention is just in its growing phase. Social media platforms have taken it upon themselves to prevent suicides. Social media users want to bring about a change in the way they can help people with depression.
Social media channels have channeled their energy into catering towards averting suicide. They are using many methods to make people learn about mental health issues. Mental health issues among teenagers are scarce. They are encouraging mental health literacy.
These social media channels are also increasingly making their applications safer. They are pouring their efforts to stop hateful comments and rumors. They are building community guidelines and privacy policies to protect vulnerable teenagers. They are also promoting platforms that provide mental health diagnoses and solutions.
There also has been an increase in the number of groups or pages created to help young teenagers. They impart knowledge about self-love and care. They help teenagers build their self-esteem. They spread positive messages about life.
These social media also have helped build communities of people. These communities of people support each other during mental health issues. These people guide one another through the rough patches and help prevent suicide. There have been instances where people have helped others prevent suicide through their posts.
One such instance occurred to Mr. Daniel Reidenberg. In the year of 2014, Daniel Reidenberg was browsing through Facebook. We worked for a suicide-prevention organization.
Daniel came across a Facebook post of a young woman. This post indicated that the woman was suicidal. He found out that the woman was a widow. This woman had mentioned that she had the intention of taking the life of her baby and commit suicide. Daniel swiftly informed the safety center of Facebook. Facebook found out the location of the woman even though she did not mention her location.
Facebook immediately took action. Their employees notified the local police and authorities. The woman had used the computer in a cybercafe in a little town in South Africa. The local police found her in just ten minutes. She was treated for her depression and her baby was also assured to be safe. Daniel Reidenbery along with Facebook and local police helped save the life of the mother and her baby.
There are many such examples of suicide prevention performed by social media users.
Facebook is also planning to now collaborate with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This will make the contact details of the National Lifeline available on Facebook. You will be able to contact them directly or you can report it to Facebook.
We can say the internet is not at all a safe place. It is important for parents of the modern age to be updated with internet safety facts for digital parenting.
These many efforts need to be complemented with the mental health literacy of teens. Parents should also put in efforts to recognize and potentially prevent such happenings.
Warning Signs of Suicide
Even though people with suicidal thoughts may appear to be normal, they may exhibit certain symptoms. You have to look out for these symptoms to help and prevent suicides.
Some of the suicide behaviors of teenagers for you to look out for are as follows:
● The feeling of worthless and hopeless
● Deterioration of personal health and hygiene
● Hostile behavior
● Loss of interest in their hobbies
● Sleeplessness or oversleeping
● Change eating habits
● Anger and frustration
● Social withdrawal
● Joking about suicide or suicidal thoughts
● Suicidal ideation
● Frequently crying
● A decline in performance at school or work
Some of these suicide behaviors are tagged as “teenager behaviors”. But parents or guardians have to be attentive to the change in the behaviors of people around them. They have to give attention to the sudden change in the behavior of their children.
Even though teenagers may exhibit some of these or none of these symptoms, you have to be attentive. You have to look out for them. They might be signs of some mental health issues like depression. Teenagers might be suffering from some sort of issues. So we have to take these warning signs seriously and be vigilant.
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