I received an email the other day from a regular contributor to my happy space Mini Travellers. It was titled ‘Don’t look at this over breakfast’. Intrigued I opened it anyway – as you do – and I found an email that said this:
A friend came to me worried recently as she had found out her daughter’s friend is self harming and has an Instagram account promoting her cutting and is followed by multiple self harmers. I had a look on Instagram using a couple of Hashtags. I work in a deprived seaside town and believe I am pretty un-shockable. I see a lot of girls with self harming issues. It’s a fairly new problem ( 10 years ago I never saw it) which I believe is encouraged by social media as you tend to get groups of girls doing it.
However the images I found were fairly horrendous. I always felt Instagram was a positive social media platform and my 12 year old has a private account. I didn’t think it was a platform for promoting and sharing damaged teenage angst in such a violent and destructive way. Instagram are clearly aware of the issue as alerts come up on searching both #selfharm and #anorexia.
My question is this. Is this something that we can change? Or is it hopeless.
I read it, but didn’t open the images, not right away anyway. What I saw when I did open the attachments and see the images was beyond my comprehension. Not just the harm, that I had seen before, but the glorifying of the harm and the messages, many of support, from other teenage girls, encouraging, glorifying and supporting self harm. That’s not to say there wasn’t messages of emotional support too, people reaching out to others and suggesting they get in touch for more emotional support against dong it, but whose to say those people were the right people, and not people there praying on the emotionally vulnerable.
I am a huge fan of social media, it has changed my life for the better. As you know I run a successful business on social media and encourage positivity, but this side of social media has rocked me right to my core. I know a lot, or so I thought, about the different types of social media bullying. I talk openly and often to anyone who will listen about the fact that it happens and that adults need to check their kids phones and apps and find out what they are using and how. I am aware of apps that aren’t appropriate and websites that shouldn’t be used, but I didn’t know enough about this and with three little girls I should know, I need to know.
I regularly suggest to parents that iPhones and iPads and kindles should all be left downstairs at bedtime and should never be in their room overnight. For those of us with younger children my belief is that if we enforce this rule now, it no longer becomes a punishments when they hit 11/12, it is just how it is. It’s a rule we are going to have to follow as a family – it’s going to have to be technology downstairs and back to old fashioned alarm clocks and house phones if there is an emergency.
I don’t know what I hope to achieve by writing this, I genuinely don’t know at all, but as I was out running this morning, listening to Michelle Obama’s autobiography ‘Becoming’ on Audible and heard her talk about change and how “you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have” so I decided that I shouldn’t just read the email and move on, I should write something down and suggest to those of you around me that you take a look at those searches on instagram, keep an eye on your children, make sure there are opportunities for you to see all of them, so you can see beneath their clothes, check those accounts, be aware that it happens. The more aware that we are, the more we can do.
If you know anyway of helping in a more productive way than awareness please do share too.
These articles may assist more than I can
There is good advice for parents here: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/keeping-children-safe/self-harm/