Self-harm images being shared online by children and young people

Exposure to harmful images through social media prompts online safety concerns ahead of Self Harm Awareness Day

11-21 year olds are exposed to self-harm images online in alarming numbers and causing many to consider hurting themselves, according to a poll commissioned ahead of Self-Harm Awareness Day on Sunday March 1st by ChildLine, YouthNet, selfharmUK and YoungMinds.

Girl holding tablet.

2,000 young people aged 11-21 took part in the poll. It also revealed that over half of 11-14 year olds and 80% of 18-21 have either self-harmed or knows someone who has.

Shockingly 60% of 11-14 year olds who had seen self-harm images revealed they were likely to share it on social media. And over half of all the responses said they wouldn’t know how to report an image of self-harm.

While self-harm is often understood to mean an addictive physical response to an emotional pain that manifests itself in cutting, burning or pinching, it is important to note that there are other forms of self-harm, such as drug and alcohol abuse and eating disorders.

To mark Self-Harm Awareness Day, the charities will run a week-long online awareness campaign. Follow #selfharm on Twitter.

Lucie Russell, Director of Campaigns at YoungMinds, speaking on behalf of the charities says:
"These findings are extremely worrying and beg concerning questions about the relationship between self-harm, children, young people and parts of the online world.

"Our research shows that exposure to images of people self-harming online is far too common among children and young people and that this exposure is having a significant effect on their well-being"
Lucie Russell / Director of Campaigns at YoungMinds

"Our research provides a troubling insight into young people and social media in relation to self-harm. There is an urgent need for more detailed research so that we can gain a deeper understanding of why the numbers of young people who are self-harming are continuing to climb at such an alarming rate."

Emma Thomas CEO of YouthNet, added:
"We all have a responsibility to share content and images responsibly online and to be aware of how what we post might affect others. Far more must be done to educate and empower young people, so they can be safer online."

"This isn’t about demonising the internet or social media, it’s about making it a safer space for children and young people and our charities want to work with social media providers to achieve this."
Emma Thomas / YouthNet CEO

"The online support provided to thousands of children and young people by our respective charities demonstrates how the internet can and is being used for good."


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