“You are ugly” or “You are stupid”. Unfortunately those are sentences in conversations that we sometimes see on Momio. Not very nice, you guessed it. But among kids and teenagers, who are often seeking self-affirmation on the internet, this is a tool to push their own self-esteem or to seek validation from their peers.
The phenomenon of cyberbullying is a known one, but what if the bullying does not come from another person but from the bullied kids themselves? From the perspective of a grown-up, it might be tough to understand why someone would torpedo their own reputation on the internet. But we have to take into consideration that today’s kids are growing up in a totally different way than we did. Kids’ everyday lives are highly influenced and interwoven with social media and technology, so a lot of their communication happens online. Here they can express their feelings – also stress, anxiety and negative feelings towards themselves. The internet offers them in their mind a safe space to voice their feelings – without the danger of not being “cool”.
Cyber self-harm or self-cyberbullying is still about to be discovered by scientists, so there are only a few studies exploring the phenomenon even though it is more common than expected. Researchers found that: “15% of 18-year-olds surveyed in both 2012 and 2013 had ‘falsely posted a cruel remark against themselves, or cyberbullied themselves, during high school’”.
I learned about this phenomenon when a kid complained in support that we gave her a time-out for bullying. It turned out that she had created her own chat room where she could insult herself. What seemed shocking and cruel at first sight, made kind of sense after reading her explanation: “Sometimes I just don’t feel so well, so I can use the chat room to let off some steam”.
The few studies that exist point out three groups of teenagers with certain characteristics that are more likely to show this kind of behaviour. According to the studies, girls are more likely to bully themselves online than boys. Moreover gay, lesbian or transsexual kids behave in a similar way. Additionally one can say that kids who are getting bullied in school or hobbies by others are taking actions against themselves online.
If it happens to your child
So what to do if this happens to your kid? Don’t panic, being aware of the issue is the first step in tackling the problem! Parents and teachers should understand the fact that cyber-self harm can be a sign of depression or deeper psychological problems that should be taken seriously.
As with most other problems, the key is listening to the child. Have a talk about it together and be open to what your child has to say and the coping mechanisms they have used. Don’t judge – but listen and help instead. And remember: Your Momio team is always happy to help and to clarify your kid’s online activities if necessary.