Cyberbullying has been a growing concern over the past decade due to the prevalence of mobile devices, social media networks, and apps. Recent research shows that there is another puzzling form of online bullying that is on the rise. A study in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that up to one in twenty teens in the United States have engaged in self-cyberbullying, that is, they have anonymously posted hurtful and humiliating comments about themselves online.
Amongst the 5,593 students, ages 12 to 17, surveyed in the study, it was found that a slightly higher percentage of boys (7.1%) participated in self-cyberbullying than girls (5.3%). There was also a marked difference in the reasons provided by the teenagers for trolling themselves on online platforms: while most boys said that they cyberbullied themselves in jest or to get attention, girls were more likely to self-cyberbully due to low self-esteem and/or depression.
Like cyberbullying, self-cyberbullying is a serious issue and it can be indicative of various mental health issues that a child or teen may be facing. It is important that teenagers who are engaging in self-trolling, especially due to underlying mental health issues, talk to a trusted adult and seek help, such as by calling Kids Help Phone in Canada (1-800-668-6868) or seeing a professional counsellor. Parents can also help by paying attention to warning signs (e.g. looking for other signs of self-harm, changes in behaviour, emotional instability) as well as by creating a safe space for children to talk about bullying and mental health issues.