Teenagers accessing self-harm, suicide guides - Netsafe

11:50 am on 11 February 2020

An alarming number of teenagers have been exposed to suicide and self harm materials online, Netsafe's latest survey shows.

lifestyle young man using a mobile phone with texting message on app smartphone, playing social network and shopping online

Photo: 123rf

Marking Safer Internet Day today, Netsafe released its Ngā taiohi matihiko o Aotearoa survey results about New Zealand children's experiences online including their view of suicide methods, violent images, hateful content and body image.

Nearly half of the 2061 children aged nine to 17 interviewed by NetSafe had seen harmful content.

  • 36 percent reported seeing violent images
  • 27 percent reported seeing hateful content
  • 20 percent accessed self-harm material
  • 17 percent accessed how-to-suicide guides
  • 15 percent searched information on "ways to be very thin"

NetSafe chief executive Martin Cocker told RNZ's Morning Report young people were often seeking out such content themselves.

"They may be sent it by their friends but in a lot of cases they are going looking for content ... they're curious about it because their friends have talked to them about it, they're interested and knowing it exists they want to see it."

He said young people themselves were recognising the harm such content was doing. A quarter of those surveyed said they were upset or bothered by something that happened online.

"It's true as much of adults as it is of young people that we often think that we can view content ... and deal with that but when we actually do it does affect us and for young people that is the case - and they are recognising that."

The number of young people accessing self-harm or suicide-related material was particularly concerning.

"Simply searching for those things will enable you to access it. We're not saying that everybody who's accessing that content is suicidal or wanting to self harm at the time but obviously that's not something we want young people looking at, especially if they are feeling concerned or worried about something in their life."

The survey said 69 percent of young people asked who they would turn to after seeing such content said they would talk to a parent, compared to 37 percent who would talk to a friend or 17 percent to a sibling.

However, 11 percent of children said they would speak with no one.

"It'll be that 11 percent that we need to be most worried about," Cocker said. "We've got to try to encourage them to feel comfortable coming forward when they face challenges."

Martin Cocker, Netsafe NZ

NetSafe chief executive Martin Cocker Photo: Supplied

"Young people say they worry about disclosing things to their parents because they worry about being blamed and having the responsibility heaped on them.

"That's the key thing for parents ... to say 'if something goes wrong, come to me, it's not gonna be a big deal, we'll deal with it together' and then of course if it does happen staying true to that - as tough as that is."

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7) or text 4202

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up: online chat (3pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 helpline (12pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-11pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

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