Social Networks May Encourage Cutting in Teenagers

Teenagers are under enormous societal pressures today. As the parent of a teenager, there is no doubt you have experienced the emotional roller coaster from one day to the next, struggling to understand what your child’s needs may truly be and can you with that. While it is unfortunate, many teens across the United States are beginning to become more involved in cutting, a self-injurious act that causes self-inflicted wounds and is becoming socially acceptable among peer groups.

“Cutting” has long been the term used to describe the physical act of damage to one’s own tissues with the intent of causing non-suicidal harm. In many teens, the act of cutting is often associated with other self-injurious activities such as sniffing. But, as peer pressure sets in, and teens become bonded by a social cause in not only their schools but also along with social networking systems, many teens are taking up the act of cutting as a way to blend in with a new group of friends that are socially accepting of one another. Often, when teens engage in social networking with other teens who are involving in cutting, the tendency to hide the wounds becomes less active and parents can more easily identify the mental health complication exists.

Teens who engage in cutting activities as part of their online social network are most likely doing so because it creates a positive reinforcement where they can make new friends and become more accepted. Contrary to the underlying reason for cutting before online social networks were in existence and teens engaged in cutting to alleviate stress and overcome negativity. When deemed as socially acceptable, teens will no longer hide the signs of their cutting and may even brag about the experience to family and friends outside of their online social network.

As a parent, you may be inclined to closely track your teen’s activities on social networking systems. However, understanding that self-injurious behaviors are often rewarded in these environments, monitoring your teen’s activities may actually not be necessary. Instead, continue to watch your teen’s behavior in the home and inspect their arms, legs, and torso when at all possible. Because your teen may wear the cutting wounds as a sign of courage, they will most likely not be difficult to find.

The act of “cutting” in teens is becoming more and more common as social networks begin to develop around the concept and teens who are socially isolated find friends with this commonality. If your teen seems socially isolated, the cutting may be an activity your teen may begin to engage in simply to make new friends and to be accepted in an online environment. If you find your teen may be engaging in these types of self-injurious behaviors, be sure to consult with a mental health professional and address not only the cutting activities but also the education around social networks so your child can become a more productive and healthy adult.