If your children are playing on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram you need to connect with them, stalk then, and have access to their accounts. Learning to navigate and act appropriately in cyberspace is a skill and parents need to ensure their children are not on the internet destroying their reputation or worse, admitting to the world they are engaging in dangerous behavior, like cutting.
I was recently shocked to learn about #CutsForBeiber, a #hashtag on Twitter used when a teen, typically a girl, cuts herself with a blade in an attempt to get Justin Bieber to stop smoking pot. Let's unpack this.
First, you may be asking yourself "what is a hashtag?" Simply put, a #hasttag is a word used when posting to a social media site. Users place a #hashtag in posts so they are correctly categorized under that topic. When searchers go looking for information on that topic they search on the #hashtag and all related posts appear in search results.
So, when a child posts a picture of their slashed wrists or legs on twitter with the #hasttag #cutforbeiber, it is categorized and others can then pull up those pictures searching on the #hashtag.
Second, what is cutting? I just did my research. Cutting is a form of self-harm where a child, typically young teenage girl is upset and relieves her stress and anxiety by taking a razor blade to her body. Cutters report that their negative feelings are relieved by the act of cutting. The injury typically presents as scratches and can be explained away and blamed on the cat or a tree branch, until they can't. Sometimes they are deep and leave scars.
Cutting is self-mutilation and should not be encouraged so Justin Bieber gets a certain addiction under control. When I looked under the #hashtag on Twitter I was horrified by what I saw. My first thought was "where are the parents of these children?" These kids need help. First and foremost for the fact that they are engaging in dangerous behavior. Second they think it is appropriate to share their injuries with the world. And lastly, these girls are under the delusion that they can somehow help Justin Bieber by hurting themselves.
Parents, if you have taken a "oh I'm sure everything is fine" approach to your child being online, it is time for your own reality check. Get online and get caught up to speed. You may think little Johnny or Susie would never ever act inappropriately online. You may think that since your child does not have a cell phone they have no access to all of this (but in reality they have an ipod which can access all of these things). Get connected and start the conversations. Talk to your kids about appropriate online behavior and open up the lines of communication so when they are in trouble they do not take their cries for help to the internet.