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Within the past week, there have been two major headlines about social networking 
technologies preventing suicides:

  • A UK teen who was describing his suicide plans on Facebook was saved by a Maryland teen who alerted police to the situation.  See story
  • Actress Demi Moore saw a woman post a suicide threat on Twitter and called police who found the woman unhurt but in need of help.  See story

This is a complete reversal of several past news stories where the internet played a key role in teens going through with suicide:

  • Teen Megan Meier committed suicide after an online courtship ended.  It was later revealed that the boy she thought she was communicating with was actually a phony account created by a neighbor.  See story
  • College student Abraham Biggs broadcast his suicide over the internet, egged on by viewers who encouraged him to "go ahead and do it."  See story

Advice for Parents:

  • Remember, the internet, like all media, is neither good nor bad — it is all in how it is used.  Recent studies show that the internet is an important tool for socialization, so don't assume all internet use is bad.
  • Talk to your kids about how they use the internet, who they talk to online, and what they tell others about themselves.  A recent study showed that when kids were reminded that strangers were looking at their public information, they took action to "clean-up" the kind of information they displayed.    
  • Meet your kids where they are: Go online and start a Facebook or MySpace account, then ask your kids if you can be friends with them through these sites.  If they give you permission, your presence will remind them that others are looking at their profiles, and you may learn about new media from your kids in the process!

One Response to “Suicide & Social Networking Sites – Prevention vs Encouragement”

  1. George Peckham-Rooney

    There are also online tools that parents can use to help stay involved in their child’s online presence. For instance, a web service like You Diligence (http://www.youdiligence.com/) can help unobtrusively inform parents about their child’s social networking activities.

    Reply

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