The virtual cutting edge: the internet and adolescent self-injury

Dev Psychol. 2006 May;42(3):407-17. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.42.3.407.


The 2 studies reported here use observational data from message boards to investigate how adolescents solicit and share information related to self-injurious behavior. Study 1 examines the prevalence and nature of these message boards, their users, and most commonly discussed topics. Study 2 was intended to explore the correlations between content areas raised for discussion. Both studies were intended to shed light on the role of message boards in spreading information about self-injurious practices and influencing help-seeking behavior. More than 400 self-injury message boards were identified. Most are populated by females who describe themselves as between 12 and 20 years of age. Findings show that online interactions clearly provide essential social support for otherwise isolated adolescents, but they may also normalize and encourage self-injurious behavior and add potentially lethal behaviors to the repertoire of established adolescent self-injurers and those exploring identity options.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Behavior, Addictive / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Prevalence
  • Psychology, Adolescent*
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / epidemiology*
  • User-Computer Interface