Survey reveals Kiwi teens 'digital self-harm' rising

News 02/05/2019

A new survey has revealed disturbing numbers of teens abusing themselves online.

Six percent of teenagers have taken part in "digital self-harm", 65 percent of them more than once, Netsafe has revealed.

The practice involves teens posting damaging comments about themselves online in the hopes that somebody will notice and step in.

"They're looking for reassurance, they're looking to test friendhships and they're pretty dangerous ways to do those things," Netsafe CEO Martin Cocker told The AM Show.

It is an indication of really problematic behaviour.

The practice is relatively new in New Zealand, but there have been cases overseas in the past.

Hannah Smith, 14, committed suicide in 2013 after sending herself messages, which the coroner investigating her case described as "vile".

"The evidence I have was that on the balance of probabilities they would all have been at Hannah's own hand. Why she did it, I don't know."

Cocker said the practice is done by girls and boys, but each gender tends to have different reasons for engaging in it.

Parents finding out about the experience could be very upset.

"If you're a parent and you find out that your child's being cyber-bullied that's pretty traumatic," Cocker said.

If you then found out the next step, that your child was bullying themselves that's an even more complex thing to deal with.

He said the key is to ensure you have an open dialogue with children about what is happening online.

"The best way to find out is to get your children to talk to you about those things and so you've got to set up an opportunity for them to describe issues that they face online.

"Turning up in their locations online? That typically goes down pretty badly to be honest, those spaces belong to them."

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Katie Fitzgerald