A Link Between the Internet and Self-Harm?

by catherinefournier on March 31, 2014 - 1:40am

Is there a clear link between internet use and self-harm or suicidal behaviors? A research from the United kingdom and linked with Oxford University was done in order to find the effects of Internet on young people. The article called “The power of the web: a systematic review of studies of the influence of the internet on self-harm and suicide in young people” describes in details the process of their research. 

Their main question was “whether there is evidence that the internet influences the risk of self-harm or suicide in young people”. They decided to analyze this question by doing a reviewed and analytic electronic literature search of all the possible articles linked with their subject on selected databases (PsycINFO, MEDLINE, EMBASE, Scopus, CINAHL). They focused their research on articles written between 1991 and 2011, the starting date was based on the availability on Internet for the public, which happened around 1991. After that, the articles found went through a long process of screening to fit a list of criteria : published in journal or book, research study or not, theoretical or non-theoretical paper, the population studied was young people (below 25) and focuses on the use of internet and self-harm, suicidal ideation. The next step was to rate each paper on a scale that ranged from low to high. The articles left (16) were thoroughly analyzed with the use of a data extraction sheet that identified the main themes, limitations, bias and findings of the research. The findings were then divided in two categories : positive influence or negative influence on young people. Also, they separated the use of internet forums from the general use of Internet.

Positive influence of internet forums: Seven research article demonstrated a positive impact on young people who self-harm. Internet forum were shown to be a “community” where you connect, develop relationship and get support from people. It was discovered that of all the 3219 posts on a forum; the most common type of comments were supportive (28.3%). The comments showed empathy and reinforcement of good behaviors such as not cutting and encouragement to get help when needed.

Negative influence of internet forums: Five studies supported the fact that forums have a negative effect on young people with suicidal ideation. They found that on certain forums self-harm was discussed as part of a routine and as a normal behavior. Some forums where even used to discuss self-harming techniques, which increased the suicidal behaviors of the users.

Positive influence of general use of internet: Only two studies found a positive link between general use of internet and self-harm. Interactive media was discovered to be a form of support for young people. Also, it reported that teenager could use the internet to connect with others, which would help their distress.

Negative influence of general use of internet: Seven studies found a negative effect of internet use and self-harm. These studies claim that the internet exposes young people to self-harm and suicide. Also, it seems that the teenagers, who self-harm, use the internet more than other adolescent. Addiction to internet could lead to an increase in self-harm and suicidal behaviors.

In conclusion, the Internet has both positive and negative effects on teenagers who self-harm. Future research should focus on which from of media has the most influence on young people, and also, possible interventions to lower the risk of self-harm such as building a blog run by healthcare workers to support young people who self-harm, as proposed in the article.


Works Cited


Daine, Kate, et al. "The Power Of The Web: A Systematic Review Of Studies Of The Influence Of The Internet On Self-Harm And Suicide In Young People." Plos ONE 8.10 (2013): 1-6. Academic Search Premier. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.



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