Online behavior of youth who engage in self-harm provides clues for preventive intervention

Prev Med. 2007 Nov;45(5):392-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2007.05.008. Epub 2007 May 21.


Objective: To explore the Internet use and interpersonal interactions of youth reporting deliberate self-harm as defined by any non-fatal act, regardless of intention.

Method: The Second Youth Internet Safety Survey is a nationally representative telephone survey of 1500 Internet users (ages 10-17) in the United States, conducted March to June 2005.

Results: Youth reporting deliberate self-harm in the past 6 months (3%) were significantly more likely than other youth to have a sexual screen name or to talk with people known only online about sex (35% versus 5%) and to use chat rooms (57% versus 29%). All youth were equally likely to talk online with people known in person, yet youth engaging in deliberate self-harm were significantly more likely also to have a close relationship with someone met online (38% versus 10%). Three quarters (76%) of youth reporting self-harm used instant messaging.

Conclusion: Findings suggest that youth who engage in self-harm may be more likely to engage in online behaviors that have the potential to place them in risky situations. Programs aimed at preventing deliberate self-harm should consider adding chat room and instant messaging to their telephone hotline capabilities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Self Concept
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / psychology*