Youth Suicide on the Rise…is Social Media to Blame?

A startling new study shows that youth suicide is on the rise, and it has risen in dramatic fashion.

Data from the National Poison Data System shows that there were more than 1.6 million cases of kids from 10 to 24-years old attempting suicide by poison during the time between 2000 and 2018. A shocking 70 percent of these attempts were done by females. There was also a huge spike in the rate of attempts at suicide among those aged 10 to 15.

When we look at the individual years from 2000 to 2018, we can see that suicide rates were fairly steady…up until 2011. However, from 2011 and beyond, there has been a huge increase. In some cases, it is as much as 300 percent. So, we have to look at reasons for this.

During that time, there were several societal changes, which certainly could impact these numbers, specifically social media and smartphones becoming something that youth are using every day. There are several studies that can correlate this theory. In simple terms, these studies show an increase in suicide among youth aged 12 to 17 and an increase in social media screen time. However, this was no correlation between the two when looking at suicide rates among adults.

This author personally knows, or sadly knew many who have committed suicide and they range in ages from 10 years into adulthood. All had one thing in common, and insatiable appetite for social media use. There is article after article that links social media use with depression. When many of us are on social media, our inclination is to compare ourselves to others. A quote that rings true is “Comparison is the thief of joy” which is so sadly true.

This study does not totally nor unequivocally establish that social media use causes suicide, of course, but there is certainly a clear connection. When you are looking at more than a million kids who are at risk of suicide, it is important that parents understand this. Everyone has a tough time in their teen years, which parents understand, but what they don’t understand is being a teenager and totally connected to their peers via digital devices 24/7 with many of their peers being MEAN to them!  Doctors, who are supposed to help, don’t understand the digital aspect of this, either.

The findings of these studies are also in line with other research on suicide, which is the second leading cause of death for people from age 10 to 24. A tween or teen will full unfettered access to a smartphone and social media is the equivalent of handing them the keys to the car prior to knowing how to drive or even giving them a loaded gun.

A separate study as reported by HuffPo shows a great correlation to all of this, too. In this study, which looked at emergency room records, it was noted that suicide attempts as well as suicidal thoughts doubled from 2005 to 2017. More than 40 percent of these were for children from 5 to 12-years old.

All of these studies also show that parents are pretty clueless about this. In fact, research shows that about 50 percent of parents who have children who have considered suicide are totally in the dark about it.

Something has got to be done about this, of course, before it gets out of (actually it already is) control. Support and awareness about mental health is certainly a step in the right direction, but parents also must be aware of the great increase of suicide and attempted suicide rates among teens and realize that their child is just at risk of this as any other children. Parents can also do things like limiting their children’s access to medications in the home. It is also important for parents to learn the warning signs and understand that even young kids, who are not yet teenagers, can still have thoughts of suicide. Talking to your kids about it is always a good idea. Taking their phone away is a better idea. Adults too. Stop the madness!

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video

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