Parents: Raising Awareness of Online Challenges

Today, I became aware of a new “trend” happening among the teen population ~ “The Cutting Challenge”, where teens are encouraged to purposely cut themselves and post the resulting images on social media. I feel compelled to write this because 1. I want parents to be aware of what’s going on; 2. I want teens to understand the potential for tragedy in promoting such destructive behavior; 3. I want to raise awareness on the “Challenge” culture, particularly when the challenges involve life-threatening situations.

Being a parent who has dealt with self-harm, I can honestly say that it is one of the most heart-wrenching things I have ever experienced. My daughter experienced a lot of trauma in her young life and self-harm was her way of controlling the pain she felt. Because of this issue, we became part of the mental health system ~ trips to the psychiatrist, constantly having to adjust medication and deal with side effects (including seizures brought on by one of the anti-depressants), 4 hospital stays and a lot of sleepless nights for us both. The act of taking a sharp object to one’s skin may mean a visit to the ER (if self-harming accompanies suicidal thoughts or feelings), where there’s a wait until a mental health hospital bed becomes available. The short-term stay in the hospital is only to stabilize, not cure. Follow-up care, in our experience, resulted in an increased dosage of whatever medication she was taking at the time. The medication only causes a new set of problems, which we have found out firsthand. It’s not a fun journey and it has a harmful effect on one’s education.

For teens who are pressuring or being pressured into the challenge, some food for thought:

  • What sort of “friends” would encourage you to cut yourself?
  • How will you explain/cover-up/get rid of the resulting scars? They don’t completely fade.
  • If you cut into a vein, you could bleed out and die within minutes, even with medical intervention. Is it worth risking for the sake of posting a picture for a challenge?
  • Cutting can become an addiction, so even if you intend to do it once for this challenge, there’s a real chance of the urge of doing it again.
  • From the moment you decide to cut yourself, regardless of the reason, you must prepare yourself to deal with whatever happens after. The resulting journey is certainly not an easy one for anyone concerned.
  • The dynamic of family life changes to adapt to destructive behavior. Your activities will be subject to greater scrutiny, which may mean less privacy and freedom out of concern for your well-being. Your family will be worried, and justifiably so.
  • It’s not just “some stupid challenge” when there’s a potential for fatalities.

So what about these “challenges” that circulate among teens online? Challenges such as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge ~ are great for raising awareness of and money for important causes; unfortunately, there are many more sinister challenges that endanger the lives and well-being of those who participate, whether freely or under peer pressure. Parents, please talk to your kids about the dangers of such challenges and help them to understand the difference between a legitimate challenge and a potentially harmful one. If they wouldn’t take part in a challenge with a trusted adult present, it’s not something they should be doing. Keep a healthy dialogue going with your children and make sure they feel comfortable enough to talk to you about peer pressure. Establish some rules about such internet activity ~ any challenges must be approved by specified adults before participation.

 If you have questions, concerns, comments or feedback, please feel free to get in touch via the contact form.

Thanks for reading!

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