Secret hashtags help teens share dangerous habits like self-mutilation

Secret hashtags help teens share dangerous habits like self-mutilation

Rule-breaking may be just as irresistible to teenagers today as it was in their parents’ day, but a new study of secret social media hashtags like #selfharmmm suggests that new technology is helping kids share dangerous behaviors more easily than ever before.

When it comes to what’s known as non-suicidal self-injury – cutting, burning and scratching done with damage rather than death in mind – teens can be quite crafty at deploying hashtags that mask their activities, evade content safeguards and advisory warnings, and make it much harder for parents to monitor their virtual lives.

“The online communities that develop around these hashtags can draw in adolescents and provide them a strong sense of belonging and support that is centered on these unhealthy behaviors,” said lead study author Dr. Megan Moreno, a specialist in adolescent medicine at the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

“This can make recovery from these behaviors more challenging,” Moreno added by email.

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