Forms of digital self-harm

In itself, understandable self-harm can be associated with:

poor coping skills;

the habit of hiding or suppressing emotions;

inability to cope with feelings of stress;

a way to get rid of emotional pain.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), self-harm stimulates the production of hormones in the body that dull pain, which leads to a rapid increase in mood. The same feeling occurs with physical pain, for example, cuts.

What is a self-harm tracker?

A self—harm tracker is a tool (digital or physical) that helps people track their emotions, triggers, and urges to self-harm. It also encourages the use of stress coping strategies that can lead to self-harm.

Teens can use the app or create their own tracker to track their mood and find ways to deal with negative emotions. The app may offer breathing or other relaxing exercises to shift attention from self-harm to self-awareness.

How to help a victim of self-harm?


How can parents prevent this?

It is important to focus on the causes of a teenager’s destructive behavior.

A teenager who wants to attract the attention of his peers may belittle his self-esteem and social interaction.

A teenager who wants to attract the attention of adults or make others worry about himself may purposefully strive for low self-esteem or weakening of his will on the part of peers.

The only way to find out the true reason for the behavior is to have a frank conversation with the child and create a safe environment for solving complex problems.

Register in social networks

Teenagers need independence and use social networks to communicate with their peers. If a parent constantly monitors the child’s social networks, they can create separate accounts to avoid monitoring the parent. However, children can make mistakes.

Instead of checking a teenager’s phone every night, talk about what’s going on. If you notice a negative comment, check the account it was sent from and ask your child about it. Explain why you think this is extremely negative, and give him the opportunity to share his feelings about it.

Talk about how their peers also use social networks, and whether your child feels that some group chats or groups of events were created without his participation.

Very often, not enough time is given to social networks. Parents explain the rules of communication in social networks once, and do not return to this topic anymore. However, a teenager needs frequent conversations to talk about his experience using social networks and ask for help if he has been subjected to cyberbullying.

Don’t judge the child

There is no definite reason for self-harm. Some do it out of curiosity, while others use it as a cry for help. If you find your child engaging in digital self-harm, stay calm. Don’t deprive him of all the technology, but instead just talk to the teenager.

Find out the reasons for this behavior by asking open-ended questions:

“What did you feel when you posted these messages?”

“How did others react?”

“What did you feel after you did this?”

— these are all questions that can help a teenager cope with the situation without condemnation or criticism.

Show the teenager who can support him

Due to constant online communication, teenagers feel isolated from live conversations. Creating a reliable support system helps children feel less lonely and makes them feel like a member of a healthy society.

Find out from the child which of his friends he trusts. Also tell him about teachers, coaches, school psychologists and other adults whom you trust and who can provide support in difficult times.

Provide professional assistance

Self-harm and depression are closely related to suicidal thoughts. However, more research is needed to better understand the goals and causes of adolescent self-harm.


Psychotherapy with a licensed specialist can help a child uncover the emotions and triggers that cause such behavior and learn to overcome all the difficulties associated with digital self-harm in the future.

Explain the importance of sleep

A study by Semenza et al, conducted in 2021, found that lack of sleep and signs of depression are associated with increased self-harm involvement of high school students in Florida. This analysis of more than 9,000 teenagers showed that even one extra hour of sleep reduces the craving for digital self-harm by 6%. This serves as a basis for educating adolescents about the importance of sleep hygiene and creating suitable sleep regimes.