Children — especially young teens — are notorious for making everything about themselves as they begin to learn about the world around them and their place in it. And it’s appropriate that they do that, with some guidance from adults who’ve been there that the world does not actually revolve around them and those little slights from peers — which that age group is also notorious for embracing — are ephemeral and temporary.
But the advent of social media, and what appears to be a disturbing growth of victim mentality in upcoming generations, has been a nasty cocktail for kids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has documented a steady incline in teen suicide rates over the last decade, with numbers higher than they’ve been in 40 years.
Adults like to comfort themselves in the face of statistics like these that maybe there’s something they can do because it’s surely that children have gotten meaner and if we can address that problem we can help the sad kids.
But what if, as a study out of Florida Atlantic University suggests, more and more kids are actually creating social media accounts to bully themselves?
About 6% of kids from the ages of 12 through 17 have bullied themselves digitally, according to research conducted by Sameer Hinduja, a professor of criminology at Florida Atlantic University and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center.
“It’s a new phenomenon, and this is definitely happening” for teens across the U.S., Hinduja said. “We have a tendency to demonize the aggressor, but in some cases, maybe one out of 20, the aggressor and target are the same.”
Hinduja likens the behavior to self-harm, also sometimes called “cutting”, which sometimes is attempted to gain attention and others is a private affair that the child never reveals. “It could betray suicidal tendencies and lead to suicidal behavior down the line if it’s not addressed,” Hinduja said.
It’s been suggested that this new behavior is the result of children being taught that there’s currency in being a victim, and that social media has exacerbated that mentality.
Regular readers of The College Fix should not be surprised by the findings; three years ago a pair of sociologists wrote in The Journal of Comparative Sociology that “In the settings such as those that generate microaggression catalogs … where offenders are oppressors and victims are the oppressed [like college campuses], it also raises the moral status of the victims.”
This may be true. But it doesn’t adequately explain the story of 14-year-old Hannah Smith of Leicestershire, England, who hanged herself after sending herself months of harassing messages.
It’s easy to blame the tool used to create Smith’s situation, and easy to blame society for shifting toward a selfish arc, but the answer here is relatively simple.
Parents, ask your kids to close their laptops, put down their phones, and talk to them.