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***Post written by David Briggs***
Influences on Today’s Youth
During a recent counseling session, I gave a young woman struggling with sexuality and gender identity issues some advice. I told her, “others only have as much power over us as we give them.” She had just shared how she was bullied in 4th grade by a boy who was “verbally and emotionally abusive” towards her. She had been reluctant to tell anyone about what was happening, until one day she told her mother she was contemplating suicide, which led her to sharing her experience at school. This girl had been suffering for months, but chose not to share this information with anyone. Once the girl’s parents were made aware, the school, teacher, principal, and the other child’s parents were involved. Within two weeks, the situation was resolved, and the girl was able to relax and start enjoying school and life again.
This discussion led me to think about other things that influence today’s youth. The most obvious are technology and social media. A brief search led me to a research paper completed in 2018 that reviewed available literature on this topic, “SOCIAL MEDIA AND YOUTH SUICIDE: A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW.” Channarong Intahchomphoo at the TIK Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture, University of Oslo, Norway, examined numerous peer-reviewed publications studying the links between social media and youth suicide. The results were very interesting. Intahchomphoo (2018) reported, “the data suggests the research gaps on social media and youth suicide are about sexting, offering online consultations, and detecting youth at risk of suicide. These themes present with the least number of studies and we do not know much about them. Whereas, running youth suicide prevention awareness campaigns, cyberbullying, and disseminating information about self-harm techniques and pro-suicide content are the subjects receiving most attention from researchers worldwide with various academic backgrounds including computers sciences and information systems, psychology, social work, medicine and health sciences, law, and education” (p. 11). Of the 97 articles included in this study, the majority included discussion of the positive effects available through online and social media outlets. However, more than 25% of the studies were all about the negative effects of social media.
According to the World Health Organization (2017), “Youth, are the most at risk age group of committing suicide in populations across societies and cultures,” and social media is regularly “used to encourage and pressure youth toward suicide including cyberbullying, sexting, and disseminating information about self-harm techniques and pro-suicide content on social media” (Intahchomphoo, 2018, p. 7). So, for me at least, this raised two questions, which sources are our children and the youth we are working with accessing the most, and what are we going to do about it?
- Intahchomphoo, C. (2018). SOCIAL MEDIA AND YOUTH SUICIDE: A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW. Downloaded from: http://ecis2018.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/1119-doc.pdf.
- World Health Organization. (2017). Suicide Data, http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/suicideprevent/en/.