We hear a lot these days about the dangers of the internet, especially social media, which can be home to any number of insidious trends and entities that can have direct impacts on the lives of the people who encounter them.
This also tends to raise questions about how young people interact with social media, and what harm it might be doing to the way children develop, form their self worth, and grow relationships with others.
But what harm can social media inflict on young people, and is there any way to address this?
Does Social Media Affect Teen Suicide?
This is a big question, but one that is best to just dive straight into.
The fact of the matter is that, yes, the rates at which teenagers commit suicide has risen exponentially alongside the extent at which social media has been a part of their lives.
While the exact extent of the role that social media plays in this phenomenon is unknown (at least on any precise level), there have been startling statistics that continue to point to social media being a distinct factor.
What Is The Connection?
While social media might not be the only cause of teenage suicide in general, or the only reason why an individual might feel compelled to take their own life, there are many ways that the emergence of the internet – and social media specifically – have altered and influenced the way we behave, and what exactly we are exposed to.
24 Hour Content
One of the main changes is the ways in which we are exposed to content, and the extent that this is a part of our lives.
We are constantly bombarded by popular social trends, unrealistic fashion ideals, and any number of other opinion and fact based things, and in many ways we are now assaulted by information 24 hours a day, something that can have detrimental effects on minds which, according to scientists, are still not fully developed.
What’s more, this technology has an addictive pull on certain people – something that is rooted in many things.
Social media connects us with our friends and peers 24 hours a day, making the development (and maintenance) of a social presence feel almost as important (if not more so) as our physical one.
Everytime we receive a message from a friend, see something we like online, or feel included in some way as part of a community, we receive a small but potent dopamine rush in our brains.
This is a reward system in our heads, and one that is responsible for those feelings of goodness and satisfaction when something pleasant happens.
The exposure to, essentially, devices that can provide these at the push of a button, can cause the formation of addictive behaviors – behaviors that, when withdrawn or denied, can cause the development of depression, anxiety, and feelings of low self worth.
Exposure To Predators
Of course, the attention we receive online is not always good and innocent.
As in the real world, the internet is home to predators of every kind and variety, with the added anonymous advantage most predators might need to act on their impulses.
Social media especially can make it relatively easy for the wrong kinds of people to interact or come into contact with young people.
As well as this, the social pressures we all go through as teenagers are no longer restricted to the school yard.
Depending on the access children and teenagers have to social media, and the extent to which they engage with the systems, school yard bullies can now have 24 hour access to vulnerable teens (see also “How To Overcome Bullying + Helps Younger Victims“).
This means that teens no longer have the salvation of their homes to escape from torment, something that can have horrific consequences in some instances.
This can also be accompanied by dark, sinister social trends, self harming, and other malicious elements that can be encountered by children, teens, and vulnerable people who are not equipped to handle them.
Can Anything Be Done?
While total control is not always an option, there are ways and means to protect your children and teenagers from the harm that social media can facilitate.
Not all families are close, and not all of them talk openly to one another, but in many ways this is the best way to keep an eye on your teenagers, and make them feel as though they can communicate and talk to you.
It is also important to discuss the harm that can be found online, and let your kids know what to look out for – and most importantly, how to block it all out.
Monitor Internet Use
Another way is to monitor their internet use – or at the very least have the family computer in communal spaces.
For teens with smartphones, parents can also limit their screen time, confiscate phones during certain times of the night, or even have an amnesty in your homes where you ALL surrender them for certain periods.
If you are concerned about what your teenager is being exposed to online, or you fear for their safety, it is important to contact someone.
Depending on the severity, this could be the school, the police, or a medically trained therapist with experience in the relevant field.
And there we have it, everything you need to know about social media, teenage suicide, and the connections therein.
This article highlights why communication, particularly with your children and teenagers, is so important, and why it needs to be encouraged more and more – both in the home and in school.
Without proper supervision, and a guiding hand on your children and their relationship to themselves and their mental health, then this awful tragedy is one that seems doomed to repeat itself time and time again.
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