Self-harm on the rise: online and offline

Posted on 20 August 2014

Last week The Times issued an article that revealed self-harming among children as young as 10 had surged by 70% in the past two years.

The figures, which were released by the NHS, showed that the number of children aged between 10 and 14 treated in hospital after deliberately hurting themselves had risen by more than 2,700 since 2012. It also revealed that teenagers between 15 and 19 treated for self-harm over the same period showed an increase of 23%

Parallels online

Earlier this year the London School of Economics issued the Net Children Go Mobile report that showed a significant increase in young people being exposed to potentially negative forms of user-generated content online, including self-harm websites.  The report which drew comparisons in the levels of online usage, risk and resilience observed in the 2010 EU Kids Go Online report revealed that in 2013 17% of 11- to 16-year olds in the UK had seen self-harm content online, up from 6% in 2010.

The figures revealed that in the last year, the number of children in the UK who have seen websites where people discuss ways of physically harming or hurting themselves were 4% of 11-12s, 16% of 13-14s and 28% of 15-16s

This increase in young people’s exposure to negative forms of user-generated content alongside the rise in self-harming among children highlights the need to explore and talk about the impact self-harm content online has on young people.

As Childnet’s Director of Policy & Strategy, Hannah Broadbent states “In the last year, there has been considerable focus on children’s exposure to pornography online and the potential impact this can have on their understanding of and attitudes to sex and relationships. It is also important that we focus our gaze on other types of potentially harmful content online, including self-harm content, and consider strategies for reducing the impact of this content, for example, by empowering mental health professionals to understand the role that technology plays in young people’s mental health, and working with technology companies to reduce the proliferation of self-harm content online, or providing parents with options to filter this content online. All of this must be done while recognising and encouraging the positive role technology can play in supporting young people with mental health problems.”

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