FAU Study Finds 6% Of Adolescents Bully Themselves Online

Oct 31, 2017

Parents: Have your kids been cyberbullied? If so, have you considered they might be the ones posting mean comments about themselves?

A new Florida Atlantic University study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found about about 6 percent of adolescents have engaged in “digital self-harm.”

Boys were more likely than girls to post or share mean things about themselves on social media. And LGBT kids were three times as likely than their peers to “self-troll.”

FAU criminology professor and cyberbullying expert Sameer Hinduja performed the study with a colleague at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. It included 5,500 kids ages 12 to 17.

“Some said that they did it to be funny or because they wanted attention,” Hinduja said. “Others said that they were looking for a reaction from their friends. Others said that to be honest it stemmed from low self-esteem or self-hate.”

Here’s one explanation of the behavior, in a kid’s own words: “I did this because I already felt bad and just wanted myself to feel worse.”

Hinduja said physical self-injurious behaviors like cutting or developing an eating disorder have been shown as precursors to suicide. He hopes to do more research to find out if there’s a link between online self-harm and suicide, but he suspects it’s possible.

He hopes to raise awareness about his discovery, which may be surprising to parents but probably isn’t to kids.

“Youth hear about this as well. They're not oblivious to this phenomenon,” Hinduja said.

“More conversations can shed light on the motivations and what we can do to get to the root behaviors that are causing them,” he said.