What is Digital Self-Harm?

For many parents who grew up without the internet, a term like cyberbullying may not strike them as a threat. If it’s digital, can’t you just stop using that website to make it go away? Even more perplexing is digital self-harm. How can you harm yourself with ones and zeroes? These ideas aren’t traditional understandings of the word ‘harm’, however, instead they refer to psychological harm. Digital self-harm has become a trend in recent years for young, troubled people to anonymously cyberbully themselves. It is known now as another form of self-harm, like anorexia or cutting, and sometimes it is an attempt to beat other cyberbullies to the punch.  

Typically, people who digitally self-harm do so by creating ghost accounts that they then use to harass their real accounts, saying mean things that look as if someone else said it. Reasons for doing so have been reported as ranging from, “I already felt bad about myself, and I wanted to make myself feel worse” to “I wanted to see if someone was really my friend.”

It may seem immediately obvious that parents should disable their teen’s social media accounts, but that often doesn’t solve the problem. Sameer Hinduja from the Cyberbullying Research Center recommends that “One of the best things parents can do is to promote open, non-judgmental lines of communication with their children. Validating a child’s experience can encourage them to confide in adults about their distressing experiences – offline or online.”

But if you are totally open and non-judgmental with your child, how can you know if they are cyberbullying themselves if they don’t mention it?

BulliPatrol automatically gives parents updates about potential bullying that happens on their child’s social media accounts. All of the monitoring is done without revealing the child’s messages or post content, which simultaneously gives the child a sense of privacy and protection. Once the negative activity is brought to light, it gives parents the opportunity to have an open discussion with their child about where it’s coming from.