What influence does social media have on teenage suicide? Over the years, we have constantly heard of teenagers who commit suicide and record it on social media. Recently, a 16-year-old girl committed suicide after asking her Instagram followers whether she should live or die. While we might have just expressed our displeasure and sadness over this type of news in the past; that can not be the case anymore. It is now happening “close to home”
Earlier this week, a UTME candidate resorted to drinking sniper because he did not have a good score and he live-streamed it on Twitter. This same week, an undergraduate of the University of Nigeria Nsuka committed suicide after writing a farewell note on Facebook.
How does social media influence teenage suicide?
Suicide is a leading cause of death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, in the year 2019, approximately 1.53 million people will die from suicide. There is increasing evidence that this behavior of using social media affects and changes people’s lives, especially in teenagers. As the internet becomes more ingrained in people’s everyday life, they are desensitized to the mental and emotional issues it can cause to an individual.
Teens are going through a formative period in their lives. At this vulnerable moment, they are also exposed to cyberbullying, trolling and body shaming, FOMO (fear of missing out) and low self-esteem. When they scroll through their social media feed all they seem to see is people who live “perfect” lives and they compare it to theirs. All of these can lead to depression, self harm and/or suicide.
Social media also helps to encourage people to copy suicidal acts. And people who are already depressed see new ways they can kill themselves. For example, sniper is now the go-to suicide material in Nigeria. This can only be because, other people have used it in the past and it has worked for them.
Everyone has moments in their life where they feel alone, but teenagers do not have enough experience yet to know that it is going to be okay. This is where self harm and suicide can come into play. Sometimes kids do not even know that they are suffering from depression, and they need someone older to see the signs.
What can parents do
Empower children with the right tools and values to navigate social media
Parents feel a sense of responsibility to teach their children everything they need to know. However, when it comes to social media many parents are not doing enough. They are not having very necessary conversations on how to navigate social media.
In order to help them, we have to be Digital Savvy Parents. If you are technology savvy, it is easier for you to have an open discussion about the pros and cons of technology with your child.
Talk to your child and set your expectations for an acceptable use of the technology before allowing your child access to a new device, game system or other social media.
By using your values and experience; you can learn about the digital world to help children achieve success throughout their lives in a technology driven world. You can download a Teen Phone Contract to guide your teen’s phone and online use here. Read how to navigate social media with your child here
Encourage teenagers to be responsible digital citizens.
If your child has a smartphone or social media account, uses an online educational platform or creates digital content, she’s a digital citizen. The solution is not to ban them from it, but to ensure they are using it the right way.
Responsible digital citizenship means taking part in online community life in a safe, ethical and respectful way. Good digital citizens behave respectfully, protect their reputations and privacy, watch their tone, and are sceptical. They give and demand online respect and they protect their privacy. Teach your child to always remember not to take things at face value, people usually only post their best life online.
Make teenage health care a priority.
Do you know that according to WHO, teens from ages 13 – 18 visit the doctor less than any other age group. Usually, they do not visit the doctor until they are sick. Teenagers health care is important because they go through a lot of physical and emotional changes, especially at puberty.
According to Dr Orode Doherty, “Adolescents are a vulnerable group, not only because of the physiologic changes they are facing but also because they begin to question norms, traditions and even family values. They are at an age where their peers’ opinions matter a lot. The usual response of “he will grow out of it” and “it is a phase she is passing through” will not address the fears, questions and extreme vulnerability adolescents pass through.
As a result of the increasing connectivity of the world, a lot of things which were not an option for parents when they were adolescents are an option for their children. Some of these examples are suicide, hard drugs – narcotics, international trafficking and sex-slave trade among others. Many parents may not have the tools to deal with these influences or to help teens navigate these rough waters”.
If your teen won’t talk to you, let them hangout with a trusted adult that they will talk to or employ the help of a specialist. Don’t just leave your child to figure things out by themselves.
Have regular conversations with your child(ren)
It is crucial to constantly have conversations with teenagers and help them know they can share if they have anything bothering them. It is advisable to share stories and experiences with them so that they know that you can relate and they are not alone.
If you need help with understanding your teenager, visit the teenagers category. You can also visit the technology and parenting category for more.