Can we prevent suicide among young people by analyzing their behavior online?

Can we prevent suicide among young people by analyzing their behavior online?

In the United States, the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and the online security company Bark Technologies have just published a study conducted jointly, which shows that certain online behaviors of young people, whether it is harassment , violence, drug-related content, hate speech, sexual content, depression-related or even mild self-harm, could be used to prevent the risk of suicide or self-harm.

The study, published in the JAMA Network Open, looked for 13 months at the online activities of middle and high school students, on devices provided by schools, and compared subjects who subsequently received an alert for high risk of suicide or self-destructive behavior, to those who have not received an alert.

The researchers compared the online behaviors of the two groups, and found that alerted students had a significantly higher number of previous online incidents, or risky online behavior, reported by Bark. All eight online risk factors studied were associated with suicide alerts.

The earlier the signs are detected, the more likely the individual will get the help they need.

Lead author Dr Steven Sumner of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says rates of suicide and self-harm have increased among young people in the United States over the years. the last decade. “It is important to be aware of the new online risk factors that young people face today, and that we really understand them, in order to strengthen our prevention efforts,” he says.

Brian Bason, CEO of Bark, adds that the earlier risk factors and signs of distress are detected, the faster a young individual can get the help they need.

“If you consider the total number of different types of online risk factors among the eight measured, there is an exponentially higher risk of suicide or self-harm alerts; young people whose online activity had at least five of the eight risk factors were more than 70 times more likely to receive a suicide alert or self-harm in the future, ”the researchers say. “The results of this study suggest that many types of risk factors are identifiable from online data, and associated with a consequent risk of suicidal behavior. While each risk factor specifically corresponds to suicidal behavior, the greatest risk is of course for young people with more than one type of risk factor. “

Social networks don’t care enough about the safety of their young users

Titania Jordan, CMO of Bark, tells ZDNet that it is extremely important to understand the way young people communicate online, especially for their parents. In their online interactions, children hide a lot of their fears and thoughts, and she believes that parents and other educators need tools to help them identify risk factors and signs of distress, so that they can help when it is needed.

Social media has come under heavy criticism in recent years, due to the growing number of suicides and depression among young people. Last week, The Wall Street Journal published a series of internal Facebook files on this subject, showing that researchers within Instagram have found that the application is “harmful” and “toxic” for certain young users, and in particular for teenage girls. “In response, Facebook says the negative effects are not widespread, that mental health research is valuable, and that some of the harmful aspects are not easily treated,” the newspaper reported.

For Bark’s CMO, even though the study conducted with the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control looked specifically at school devices and accounts, it is clearer than ever that “social media platforms do not not sufficiently consider the safety of children to be a priority. Often, the measures announced to solve the platform’s problems give only an illusion of security. The built-in “parental controls” are generally easy to turn off by children at any time without parental consent. It’s easy for tech-savvy kids to escape the watchful eye of parents who aren’t. ”

“Big tech companies need to partner with parents to give them better insight into their children’s online world. Keeping children safe online is ultimately a parent’s responsibility, but it is incredibly difficult to navigate the vast platform market, where children encounter dangerous situations without the right monitoring tools in place. . “

The effects of technology on our mental health

Titania Jordan adds that there are ways for parents to watch for warning signs without completely invading their children’s privacy. This study confirms that online behaviors can prevent serious future behaviors related to suicide or self-harm.

She adds that, more generally, the mental health of almost all demographic groups has deteriorated during the Covid-19 pandemic. Since January-March 2021, the Bark platform has recorded a 143% increase in alerts for self-harm and suicidal ideation among young people aged 12 to 18.

While mental health problems have been more accepted and better understood in recent generations, the influence of new technologies has had mixed effects on this trend. “Even though technology is blamed for the sole cause of these problems, it is unrealistic for a parent to completely ban their child from going online – we live in a connected world. Rather, we need to give them resources so that they can have conversations with their children when they start to use the internet and have a connected device, ”she explains. “Every parent knows that when a teenager says, ‘I’m fine,’ the odds are good that they won’t say everything. “

Source: ZDNet.com

In the United States, the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and the online security company Bark Technologies have just published a study conducted jointly, which shows that certain online behaviors of young people, whether it is harassment , violence, drug-related content, hate speech, sexual content, depression-related or even mild self-harm, could be used…

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