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Understanding Suicide Porn. Teen death linked to Instagram

“INSTAGRAM HELPED KILL MY DAUGHTER.”

Recently, news broke out about Molly Russell, a 14-year-old who took her own life after viewing content linked to suicide on Instagram.

Her father reported to the BBC that he believed Instagram “helped kill my daughter”.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Molly’s father stated that when he went to Molly’s Instagram account he found posts linking to self-harm, depression, and suicide. The posts were easily found using common hashtags names and it showed things like cutting, taking pills, burning and more.

Who is to be blamed when parents allow their kids access to social media which they later discovered have been harming their child?

Molly Russell, 14, took her own life in 2017 after viewing disturbing content about suicide on Instagram and Pinterest.

 

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Understanding suicide porn

The official definition of suicide porn is: To look at dangerous objects or places and fantasize over causing yourself harm/death using them. The warm feelings this brings up are psychologically gratifying, rather than sexual.

If you have seen the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why, it shows how suicide porn is glorified and used as a way to revenge against bullies.

The BBC reported that a 12-year-old girl, Libby, shared her fresh cuts with 8,000 followers on Instagram. She would even be adviced by her followers how to make cuts deeper to produce more blood.

When Libby’s father discovered her Instagram account, he was shocked to find comments from others suggesting her how to cut herself.

“You shouldn’t have done it this way, you should have done it like that. Don’t do it here, do it there because there’s more blood.”

In her interview, Libby said that it was easy to find a tribe that would do such things. She felt comfortable sharing her anxiety and self-harm tendencies with her online tribe.

“You start becoming a part of it – you get almost stuck to it,” she says. “I was very hooked on it. It was almost like you had to keep up with it otherwise people would turn away and stop caring.”

 

Is Instagram combating suicide porn?

The Sun Times, created an Instagram account as a 14-year-old and started browsing content relating to suicide. When they reported the complaints to Instagram about the images, they were all rejected.

 

Libby has the same experience. Her father tried reporting the images but it says that it does not breach their community standards.

To test this myself, I tried reporting images relating to self-harm, porn, and other negative images but I get the same response which states that community guidelines have not been violated.

This is an example of one of the images I reported ( I have added a blue overlay to make it less graphic) :

This is the reply from Instagram :

Instagram justifies where it stands by stating that “We do not allow content that promotes or glorifies eating disorders, self-harm or suicide and works hard to remove it.

“However, for many young people, discussing their mental health journey or connecting with others who have battled similar issues, is an important part of their recovery.”

I don’t think this is good enough. Young people need to be kept away from such images on social media. Also, the comments that come with many of these images promote self-harm instead of curbing it.

The British Parliament stated that “Social media giants face [a] legal duty of care to protect children from online harm.”

On February 4, 2019 – The UK health minister requested Instagram to remove self-harm images. Instagram has promised to do so. Let’s see how this unfolds. As for now, 7 February 2019, self-harm images can still be found on its platform

 

Self-harm content that can be found on Instagram

I have yet to see the effort made by Instagram to remove suicide porn from its platform. Simple hashtag search such as #selfharm #cutting #depression brings out very dark images.

Warning: Before moving on to see the images do know that it can be very disturbing. 

Every child on Instagram has access to these pictures.

 

5 ways to help your child use social media safely

If you have read my blog, you would have seen some of the advice below. But I will not stop repeating this advice and hopefully, it can help parents out there.

1. Identifying inappropriate content (ex self-harm and suicide) 

Instagram has no built-in parental control features. The only way to do this is to install parental monitor into your child’s phone.

Also, no one under the age of 13-years-old should be using Instagram. Even though this is the age limit set, I would hold off letting them on social media for as long as possible.

Instagram is not doing much to protect your kids on their platform. Parents will have to do the hard work of keeping them away from social media.

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2. Dealing with bullies

Instagram has a feature where you can remove offensive comments from posts. However, this does not necessarily mean bullying is prevented.

Follow your kid’s account and also check their Instagram app to ensure they do not have a Finstagram (second or fake Instagram account)

3. Protecting your child from predators

Have an open conversation about sexting, grooming and online predators. Switch off their location setting on their mobile phone and check their privacy settings.

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4.  Be involved in their online activities

Do not leave your child to wonder the online world themselves. Sit and browse with them together.

If your child is younger than 13 years old then let them know that they should not be on any social media platform.

If they are above 13 then inform them that you will be following their accounts and be monitoring their usage. Let your child know that the reason you are doing is not to spy on them but to keep them safe from harmful content.

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Conclusion – Speak to them. Regularly

If you think your child is going through some difficulties, don’t be scared to get some help. Contact your local charities, school, and counselors to get some guidance.

If your child has a social media account, then talk to them about why you think it is necessary for you to be monitoring their account.

 

Here are tips to you keep children safe in the digital age : 

Tips for Non-Tech Savy Mums :4 tips to digital parenting for non-tech savy mums

Stop kids from being datafied : Are your children datafied from birth

3 dangerous places for children to be online : 3 places kids should have limited internet access

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