How can we help?

When I first read about teens using the internet to self-harm this week, I was shocked. Some teens are using social media sites like Reddit and 4chan to ask others to “roast them”. As Tanitha Carey put it, these posts result in “a feeding frenzy of comments beneath it, vicious to the point of being unprintable”. But wait, it gets worse. Some of these posters take this to a whole new level by creating additional accounts and going back to comment on their original posts, roasting themselves.

Still in disbelief, I went to Google to see what one of these posts look like. They are real. Very real. With a full subreddit, /r/RoastMe, fully dedicated to them. I do not feel comfortable linking to any of the posts directly on my blog, but a quick click through and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.  On a much happier sidenote, there also exists a subreddit called /r/unRoastMe which aims to be a “place of niceness”. It looks like some users jump back and forth between the subreddits.

Sure, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was happening the other way around. Students posting asking for positive feedback and then going back in to comment on a different account about how awesome they are (similar to a company self posting fake positive reviews of itself). But somehow, this strikes me as very different. Is pumping yourself up online from a fake account different than putting yourself down in the same spaces?

After tweeting out a quote from the original article, Nicole posed a question to me.

Still in bewilderment, I didn’t really know where to go with this.

As a classroom teacher, the part that I struggle with most is that I wouldn’t have any idea if my students were doing this. Aside from trying to track them down on my own personal time, which I don’t think is a good idea, there doesn’t seem to be much that teachers can do to monitor this. There are not the physical signs of self harm that we typically see on students who do things like cut.  I am terrified at the thought that some of my students might actually be doing this.

So, back to Nicole’s question. How can we help?

Is this type of self-harm something we should be teaching kids about? What would that look like?

I think this specific issue puts us in an interesting place. It combines a number of issues that pull from the likes of health and wellness classes, bullying and cyberbullying, and digital citizenship. I like to think I’m a fairly “with it” teacher, but this was beyond me and likely beyond the imagination of most teachers and parents.

Ultimately, I think this comes down to figuring out why students (and adults) are engaging in this type of behaviour. It is clearly a complex issue, one that I’m not going to pretend for a second to fully understand – but one that we, as educators, need to take seriously and talk about.

Nowadays, prior to self-harm, people tend to go online to seek out images of what they hope to do to themselves. There also appears to be direct link between young people who self-harm and their use of the internet.  This problem is likely only going to grow.

If we’re only starting to hear about this now, I think it’s safe to say that this type of behaviour is only going to increase and take on new, more surprising forms.

How can we help? What can we do?

Photo from Unsplash: Tom Sodoge 


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Comments 5
  1. I am in the same boat. The more I read about this roasting or self harm online the more questions I have. What do we do as educators? The easy answer is always to teach about it but, will teaching about this have a positive impact or is that going to encourage kids who never thought of the idea or knew about these sites to experiment with them? All I know is the mental health aspect needs to be addressed to our teens. Teaching people how to love themselves and showing them how important and special they are can maybe help some teens with their mental health. The scariest part your whole blog was when you mentioned this behavior will likely increase. That statement is so true it makes me feel almost helpless in this aspect of students lives.

  2. 100% with you @mskbrodner. A lot of how we make this better is the PROACTIVE things we do offline… starting with cultivating positive mental health and coping skills… among other things that I mention in my blog post this week. They do this largely because they are lacking skills, health, well-being, knowledge, virtues, etc. We also need to model ways in which students can get positive feedback without having to go about it in such a harmful way. i.e. write an amazing blog post for school and others will comment, make a video about social action and receive affirming feedback and likely make new connections, etc.

  3. I was alarmed reading these articles, too. It makes me wonder how much more prevalent this will be in the future. There is no concrete solution, but I am glad that I am now aware to start having conversations about this. I brought it up to some staff members today (to which they replied with shock too).

  4. I shared many of your thoughts this week Kyle. I agree that this was totally beyond me as well and when I brought the idea of cyber self-harm up to some colleagues this week, they shared this sense of shock and helplessness. While mulling it over for the week, I have realized that the cyber self-harm is the action taken to express the anxiety and depression these students are experiences. Whether they are physically self-harming or cyber self-harming, I think it stems from the same feelings of depression and those are the signs we look for.

    A fully agree that this is so difficult to navigate as a classroom teacher.

  5. How can we do? What can we do?–That is a question confuses many teachers on the issue of its negative effect toward teens. We cannot totally deny or ban students using these platforms, as students do benefit from these online resources. This question is worth thinking about.

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